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Muscles of the orbit: want to learn more about it?

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Muscles of the orbit

Learning objectives

After working through this study unit you will be able to:

  1. Identify the individual muscles within the orbit.
  2. Recognize the attachments, innervation and action of each muscle.

Watch video

The muscles of the orbit, also referred to as extraocular muscles, or extrinsic muscles of the eyeball, consist of seven skeletal muscles that are located within the orbital cavity, external to the eyeball. Of the seven muscles, the levator palpebrae superioris muscle elevates the upper eyelid. The remaining six are responsible for moving the eyeball in various directions and consist of four recti muscles (superior, inferior, medial and lateral rectus muscles) and two oblique muscles (superior and inferior oblique muscles).

These extraocular muscles originate either from the bony walls of the orbit or the common tendinous ring (annulus of Zinn) and insert at specific areas on the eyeball, producing unique eye movements when put in action. With the exception of the lateral rectus and the superior oblique muscles, which are innervated by the abducens nerve (CN VI) and trochlear nerve (CN IV) respectively, all the remaining extraocular muscles are supplied by the oculomotor nerve (CN III).

Watch this video to learn more about the attachments, innervation, relations and function of the various muscles of the orbit!

Take a quiz

Test your knowledge with our quiz on the muscles of the orbit and related structures:

Do you want to broaden your understanding of this topic? Try out this customizable quiz about the muscles of the orbit. You can customize this yourself to your preference and save your selection to quiz yourself later!

Browse atlas

Take a look at our atlas gallery to further review the individual muscles of the orbit you have covered so far in detail.

Summary

Key points about the muscles of the orbit
Levator palpebrae superioris muscle Origin: Lesser wing of sphenoid bone
Insertion:
Anterior surface of superior tarsus, skin of upper eyelid
Innervation:
Oculomotor nerve (CN III)
Function:
Elevation of upper eyelid
Superior rectus muscle Origin: Superior part of common tendinous ring (annulus of Zinn)
Insertion:
Anterior half of the superior surface of eyeball
Innervation:
Oculomotor nerve (CN III)
Function:
Elevation, adduction, internal rotation of eyeball
Inferior rectus muscle Origin: Inferior part of common tendinous ring (annulus of Zinn)
Insertion:
Anterior half of the inferior surface of eyeball
Innervation:
Oculomotor nerve (CN III)
Function:
Depression, adduction, external rotation of eyeball
Medial rectus muscle Origin: Medial part of common tendinous ring (annulus of Zinn)
Insertion:
Anterior half of the medial surface of eyeball
Innervation:
Oculomotor nerve (CN III)
Function:
Adduction of eyeball
Lateral rectus muscle Origin: Lateral part of common tendinous ring (annulus of Zinn)
Insertion:
Anterior half of eyeball laterally
Innervation:
Abducens nerve (CN VI)
Function:
Abduction of eyeball
Superior oblique muscle Origin: Body of sphenoid bone
Insertion:
Superolateral aspect of eyeball (deep to rectus superior, via trochlea)
Innervation:
Trochlear nerve (CN IV)
Function:
Depression, abduction, internal rotation of eyeball
Inferior oblique muscle Origin: Orbital surface of maxilla
Insertion:
Inferolateral aspect of eyeball (deep to lateral rectus muscle)
Innervation:
Oculomotor nerve (CN III)
Function:
Elevation, abduction, external rotation of eyeball
Mnemonic for innervation of extraocular muscles LR6SO4:
Lateral rectus: Abducens nerve (CN VI)
Superior oblique: Trochlear nerve (CN IV)
Rest of extraocular muscles: Oculomotor nerve (CN III)

Well done!

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Complete your knowledge about the orbit by learning about its nerves and blood vessels in the following study units.

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