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Vocalis muscle

Vocalis muscle (musculus vocalis)

Vocalis is a paired intrinsic laryngeal muscle, which sits parallel to the vocal ligament. Some authors consider it to be composed of fibers of the thyroarytenoid muscle. 

Together with the vocal ligament, this muscle is the main component of the vocal cords or vocal folds. The vocal folds form the anterolateral edges of the rima glottidis and are concerned with sound production.

This article will teach you all you need to know about the anatomy and function of the vocalis muscle.

Key facts about the vocalis muscle
Origin Lateral surface of vocal processes of arytenoid cartilage
Insertion Anterior part of ipsilateral vocal ligament
Action Tenses anterior part and relaxes posterior part of vocal ligament
Innervation Recurrent laryngeal nerve, external laryngeal nerve
Blood supply Superior and inferior thyroid artery

Recommended video: Larynx
Cartilages, ligaments, membranes and muscles of the larynx.

Origin and insertion

The vocalis muscle is a small, strand like muscle that originates at the lateral surface of vocal process of arytenoid cartilage. It runs anteromedially across the laryngeal inlet and attaches to the anterior part of the ipsilateral vocal ligament near the thyroid cartilage. 

It is debated among anatomists whether this muscle is really a distinct muscle or part of the thyroarytenoid muscle due to their close relation. The latter suggests that the vocalis muscle is formed from its medial detached part, thyroarytenoid internus, consisting of more delicate muscle fibers than the thyroarytenoid muscle itself.

Relations

While extending from the arytenoid cartilage towards the thyroid cartilage, the vocalis muscle runs in parallel with the vocal ligament, up until it inserts on the ligament’s anterior part. The vocalis muscle, along with the vocal ligament and the thyroarytenoid muscle, forms the deepest structure of the mucous membrane covered vocal folds.

The space between the right and left vocal folds is called the rima glottidis; it leads into the larynx. Thus the rima glottidis is bound by the vocal cords laterally on each side, the thyroid cartilage anteriorly and the interarytenoid space posteriorly.

Innervation

Vocalis and thyroarytenoid muscles are innervated by the recurrent laryngeal nerve, a branch of the vagus nerve (CN X). They receive a communicating branch from the external laryngeal nerve as well, although the role of this nerve supply is not well understood.

Blood supply

The vocalis muscle receives its arterial supply from the laryngeal branches of the superior thyroid artery, the first branch of the external carotid artery; and the inferior thyroid artery, a branch of the thyrocervical trunk. Venous blood from vocalis is drained by the superior and inferior laryngeal veins, which are tributaries of the internal jugular vein. 

Function

The vocalis muscle makes small adjustments to the tension of the vocal ligaments. Similar to a rubber band, lengthening of the vocal folds also ‘thins’ them, while shortening of the vocal folds ‘thickens’ them. Thus the general action of vocalis is to shorten, and thicken, the vocal folds and thereby change the tonal quality of the voice.

Since the vocalis muscle attaches at the anterior part of the vocal ligament, its contraction can exhibit a tension of the anterior part, with simultaneous relaxation of the posterior part of the vocal cords.This action results in the production of a high-pitched voice.

Do you think you know everything about the vocal cords? Test yourself with the following quiz and see where you stand:

Vocalis muscle: want to learn more about it?

Our engaging videos, interactive quizzes, in-depth articles and HD atlas are here to get you top results faster.

Sign up for your free Kenhub account today and join over 1,202,532 successful anatomy students.

“I would honestly say that Kenhub cut my study time in half.” – Read more. Kim Bengochea Kim Bengochea, Regis University, Denver

Show references

References:

  • Moore, K. L., Dalley, A. F., & Agur, A. M. R. (2014). Clinically Oriented Anatomy (7th ed.). Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
  • Singh, V. (2014). Textbook of Anatomy (Regional and Clinical) Head, Neck, and Brain; Volume Iii. London: Elsevier Health Sciences APAC.
  • Gray, H. (1918). Anatomy of the Human Body (20th ed). London, UK: Churchill Livingstone.

Article, review and layout:

  • Gordana Sendic
  • Nicola McLaren
  • Jana Vaskovic

Illustrations:

  • Vocalis muscle (musculus vocalis) - Paul Kim
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