Torque vectors of neck muscles in the cat

C. R. Wickland, J. F. Baker*, B. W. Peterson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Anatomical texts describe the neck musculature without measurements of muscle locations or quantitative estimates of pulling actions (torques). This study is based on measurements in stereotaxic coordinates of cat neck muscle origins and insertions, and neck intervertebral rotation axes. Torque vectors in three dimensions were calculated for 14 pairs of dorsal and ventral muscles that insert on the skull or first cervical vertebra. Predicted torque vectors were in general agreement with qualitative statements in the literature. Biventer cervicis and the rectus capitis major, medius, and minor muscles act mainly to raise the head, and longus capitis acts almost exclusively to lower the head. Longissimus capitis, sternomastoid, and cleidomastoid act mainly to roll the head. Complexus acts about equally to raise the head and roll it. Splenius and occipitoscapularis have torque in all three coordinate directions. Torques were altered by changing the pitch of the head with respect to the neck. The calculated neck muscle torques did not correspond to previously reported directions of neck muscle excitation during the vestibulocollic reflex. The neck musculature appears to be a complex, multidimensional system that presents interesting problems in motor control.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)649-659
Number of pages11
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 1991


  • Cat
  • Insertions
  • Neck muscles
  • Origins
  • Torque vectors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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