Sensory, motor, or both: Mainly motor
Nuclei: Hypoglossal nucleus
Function: Provides motor innervation to the muscles of the tongue (except for the palatoglossus, which is innervated by the vagus nerve) and other glossal muscles. Important for swallowing (bolus formation) and speech articulation. Located in the hypoglossal canal.
The hypoglossal nerve is the motor nerve of the tongue.
Its fibers arise from the cells of the hypoglossal nucleus, which is an upward prolongation of the base of the anterior column of gray substance of the medulla spinalis. This nucleus is about 2 cm. in length, and its upper part corresponds with the trigonum hypoglossi, or lower portion of the medial eminence of the rhomboid fossa. The lower part of the nucleus extends downward into the closed part of the medulla oblongata, and there lies in relation to the ventro-lateral aspect of the central canal. The fibers run forward through the medulla oblongata, and emerge in the antero-lateral sulcus between the pyramid and the olive.
The rootlets of this nerve are collected into two bundles, which perforate the dura mater separately, opposite the hypoglossal canal in the occipital bone, and unite together after their passage through it; in some cases the canal is divided into two by a small bony spicule. The nerve descends almost vertically to a point corresponding with the angle of the mandible. It is at first deeply seated beneath the internal carotid artery and internal jugular vein, and intimately connected with the vagus nerve; it then passes forward between the vein and artery, and lower down in the neck becomes superficial below the Digastricus. The nerve then loops around the occipital artery, and crosses the external carotid and lingual arteries below the tendon of the Digastricus. It passes beneath the tendon of the Digastricus, the Stylohyoideus, and the Mylohyoideus, lying between the last-named muscle and the Hyoglossus, and communicates at the anterior border of the Hyoglossus with the lingual nerve; it is then continued forward in the fibers of the Genioglossus as far as the tip of the tongue, distributing branches to its muscular substance.
The communications with the vagus take place close to the skull, numerous filaments passing between the hypoglossal and the ganglion nodosum of the vagus through the mass of connective tissue which unites the two nerves. As the nerve winds around the occipital artery it gives off a filament to the pharyngeal plexus.
The communication with the sympathetic takes place opposite the atlas by branches derived from the superior cervical ganglion, and in the same situation the nerve is joined by a filament derived from the loop connecting the first and second cervical nerves.
The communications with the lingual take place near the anterior border of the Hyoglossus by numerous filaments which ascend upon the muscle.
The branches of distribution of the hypoglossal nerve are: Meningeal, Thyrohyoid, Descending, Muscular