Proprioceptors in extraocular muscles

Roland Blumer, Génova Carrero-Rojas, Paula M Calvo, Johannes Streicher, Rosa R de la Cruz, Angel M Pastor

Research output: Journal article (peer-reviewed)Review article

1 Citation (Scopus)


NEW FINDINGS: What is the topic of this review? This review aims to evaluate the literature on proprioceptors and particular nerve specializations (palisade endings) in mammalian extraocular muscles (EOMs) and to reconsider current knowledge of their structure and function. What advances does it highlight? Classical proprioceptors (muscle spindles and Golgi tendon organs) are absent in the EOMs of most mammals. Instead, palisade endings are present in most mammalian EOMs. For many years, palisade endings were considered to be sensory but recent studies show that they combine sensory and motor features. The functional significance of palisade endings is still debated.

ABSTRACT: Proprioception is the sense that lets us perceive the location, movement and action of the body parts. The proprioceptive apparatus includes specialized sense organs (proprioceptors) which are embedded in the skeletal muscles. The eyeballs are moved by six pairs of eye muscles and binocular vision depends on fine-tuned coordination of the optical axes of both eyes. Although experimental studies indicate that the brain has access to eye position information, both classical proprioceptors (muscle spindles and Golgi tendon organ) are absent in the extraocular muscles of most mammalian species. This paradox of monitoring extraocular muscle activity in the absence of typical proprioceptors seemed to be resolved when a particular nerve specialization (the palisade ending) was detected in the extraocular muscles of mammals. In fact, for decades there was consensus that palisade endings were sensory structures that provide eye position information. The sensory function was called into question when recent studies revealed the molecular phenotype and the origin of palisade endings. Today we are faced with the fact that palisade endings exhibit sensory as well as motor features. This review aims to evaluate the literature on extraocular muscle proprioceptors and palisade endings and to reconsider current knowledge of their structure and function.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-26
Number of pages10
JournalExperimental Physiology
Issue number1
Early online date03 Mar 2023
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2024


  • Golgi tendon organs
  • eye muscle
  • muscle spindles
  • palisade endings
  • proprioception
  • Sensory Receptor Cells
  • Animals
  • Muscle Spindles
  • Proprioception/physiology
  • Mammals
  • Mechanoreceptors
  • Oculomotor Muscles/innervation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology (medical)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Physiology


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