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Occipitofrontalis muscle

Recommended video: Muscles of facial expression [12:24]
Overview of the muscles responsible for facial expression.
Occipitofrontalis muscle (Musculus occipitofrontalis)

Occipitofrontalis is a long and wide muscle of the scalp, spanning from the eyebrows to the superior nuchal lines of occipital bones. Together with temporoparietalis, it comprises the epicranial group of the muscles of facial expression.

Occipitofrontalis consists of frontal and occipital bellies, each containing a pair of quadrangular muscle heads. The bellies are connected by a thick fibrous sheath called epicranial aponeurosis (galea aponeurotica) onto which both of them attach. The function of occipitofrontalis muscle is to elevate the eyebrows and wrinkle the forehead skin with its frontal part, and to retract the scalp with its occipital part.

Key facts about the occipitofrontalis muscle
Origin Frontal belly (frontalis): Skin of eyebrow, muscles of forehead
Occipital belly (occipitalis): (Lateral 2/3 of) superior nuchal line
Insertion Epicranial aponeurosis
Action Frontal belly: Elevates eyebrows, wrinkles skin of forehead
Occipital belly: Retracts scalp
Innervation Frontal belly: Temporal branches of facial nerve (CN VII)
Occipital belly: Posterior auricular nerve (branch of facial nerve (CN VII))
Blood supply Superficial temporal, ophthalmic, posterior auricular and occipital arteries

This article will discuss the anatomy and function of occipitofrontalis muscle.

  1. Origin and insertion
  2. Relations
  3. Innervation
  4. Blood supply
  5. Function
  6. Sources
+ Show all

Origin and insertion

Occipitofrontalis muscle consists of two muscle bellies connected by epicranial aponeurosis that spans the dome of the skull.

  • Frontal belly overlies the forehead and has no bony attachments. Its superficial fibers originate from the dermis of the skin and subcutaneous tissue of the eyebrows, while deeper fibers arise from the superior parts of procerus, orbicularis oculi and corrugator supercilii muscles. The belly then courses posterolaterally to insert into the epicranial aponeurosis anteriorly to the coronal suture of the skull.
  • Occipital belly overlies the back of the skull. It originates from the lateral two-thirds of the superior nuchal lines of occipital bone. After a short course superiorly, their muscle fibers insert into the epicranial aponeurosis posteriorly to the lambdoid suture.


Occipitofrontalis is found deep to the subcutaneous tissue of the skin of the scalp and superficial to the periosteum of the skull.

Once they leave the orbits, supraorbital and supratrochlear arteries and nerves travel over the anterior surface of the frontal belly. The anterior surface of the occipital belly is crossed by the greater occipital nerve and occipital artery.


Both parts of the muscle are supplied by the facial nerve (CN VII) that gives off temporal branches for the frontal belly, and the posterior auricular nerve for the occipital belly.

Blood supply

Blood supply to both parts of occipitofrontalis comes from several branches;

All the arteries supplying this muscle are the branches of external carotid artery, except for the ophthalmic artery which arises from the internal carotid artery.


Occipitofrontalis muscle has several actions depending on which of its attachments is fixed;

When its aponeurotic attachment is fixed, the frontal belly elevates the eyebrows and skin of the forehead, producing a facial expression of shock or surprise. When its forehead attachment is fixed, the frontal belly aids the procerus, orbicularis oculi and corrugator supercilii muscles to frown the eyebrows by pulling the skalp forwards and wrinkling the forehead. Since the muscle heads of the frontal belly are separated, it is possible to perform these movements on only one of the halves of the face.

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Occipital belly retracts the scalp when its nuchal part is fixed and moves it forwards when the aponeurotic attachment is fixed. These movements are insignificant on their own, but in case they occur simultaneously with contractions of the frontal belly, they help moving the entire scalp backwards and forwards respectively.

The next step after studying, is testing yourself! Our quiz on the muscles of facial expression is here to do just that.

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