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Brain: Inferior olivary nucleus
The medulla, showing the olivary bodies lying adjacent to the pyramids.
Transverse section of medulla oblongata below the middle of the olive.
Latin oliva
Gray's subject #187 781
Part of
BrainInfo/UW -
MeSH A08.

In anatomy, the olivary bodies or simply olives (Latin oliva and olivae, singular and plural, respectively) are a pair of prominent oval structures in the medulla oblongata, the lower portion of the brainstem. They contain the olivary nuclei.

External anatomy

The olivary body is located on the anterior surface of the medulla lateral to the pyramid, from which it is separated by the antero-lateral sulcus and the fibers of the hypoglossal nerve.

Behind, it is separated from the postero-lateral sulcus by the ventral spinocerebellar fasciculus. In the depression between the upper end of the olive and the pons lies the vestibulocochlear nerve.

It measures about 1.25 cm. in length, and between its upper end and the pons there is a slight depression to which the roots of the facial nerve are attached.

The external arcuate fibers wind across the lower part of the pyramid and olive and enter the inferior peduncle.

Olivary nuclei

The olivary nuclei consist of the inferior olivary nucleus, the dorsal and medial accessory olivary nuclei, and the superior olivary nucleus.

Inferior olivary nucleus

The inferior olivary nucleus is the largest, and is situated within the olive.

It consists of a gray folded lamina arranged in the form of an incomplete capsule, opening medially by an aperture called the hilum.

Emerging from the hilum are numerous fibers which collectively constitute the peduncle of the olive. The axons, also known as olivocerebellar fibers, leave the olivary nucleus, exit through the hilum, and decussate with those from the opposite olive in the raphé.

Then, as internal arcuate fibers they pass partly through and partly around the opposite olive and enter the inferior peduncle to be distributed to the cerebellar hemisphere of the opposite side from which they arise.

The fibers are smaller than the internal arcuate fibers connected with the median lemniscus. Fibers passing in the opposite direction from the cerebellum to the olivary nucleus are often described but their existence is doubtful.

Much uncertainty also exists in regard to the connections of the olive and the spinal cord.

Important connections between the cerebrum and the olive of the same side exist but the exact pathway is unknown.

Many collaterals from the reticular formation and from the pyramids enter the inferior olivary nucleus.

Removal of one cerebellar hemisphere is followed by atrophy of the opposite olivary nucleus.

Accessory olivary nuclei

The medial accessory olivary nucleus lies between the inferior olivary nucleus and the pyramid, and forms a curved lamina, the concavity of which is directed laterally. The fibers of the hypoglossal nerve, as they traverse the medulla, pass between the medial accessory and the inferior olivary nuclei.

The dorsal accessory olivary nucleus is the smallest, and appears on transverse section as a curved lamina behind the inferior olivary nucleus.

Superior olivary nucleus

The superior olivary nucleus is considered part of the pons, and is therefore discussed in a separate article.

External links

This article was originally based on an entry from a public domain edition of Gray's Anatomy. As such, some of the information contained herein may be outdated. Please edit the article if this is the case, and feel free to remove this notice when it is no longer relevant.

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