The FrontalCortex question bank can help you study for the neurology boards.

Directions and Planes of Section in Neuroanatomy

Last updated on Wednesday, September 4 2013 by jdmiles

peer review status unavailable
rating unavailable

<-- Back to Chapter Menu                          Next Section --> 

 

An orientation to the nervous system, introducing common terms used to describe directions and orientation, specifically as it pertains to neuroanatomy.

 

When we are discussing directions in anatomy, definitions are based on a person being in the anatomical position, which looks like this:  [click here]

 

Planes of Section

Like any three-dimensional object, the human body can be looked at in terms of 3 separate planes.  Unlike other three-dimensional objects, anatomists have special names for these planes when dealing with the human body.  We call these "planes of section."

[click here]

The three planes are:

1)  the horizontal or transverse plane, which is parallel to the floor when a person is in the anatomical position:

[click here]

2) the coronal or frontal plane:

[click here]

3) the sagittal plane:

[click here]

 

Bear in mind that "sagittal plane" does not necessarily refer to a cut through the midline of the body.  We refer to the most medial or midline sagittal plane as the "midline sagittal plane" or medial sagittal plane:  [click here]

 

But any plane parallel to this is also sagittal.  For example, in the image below, the blue plane shown is also a sagittal plane:

[click here] 

 

Directions:

When looking at the brain, as in looking at any other part of the body, anatomical directions are very helpful, particularly in the gross anatomy lab.  Phrases like "structure x is below structure y" or "this is above that" can be ambiguous, and depend on how one is holding or viewing the brain.  On the other hand, terms like "superior" and "medial" are always made in reference to the anatomical position and the surrounding anatomy, and do not change.  The thumbnails below refer to different axes and directions.

 

Proximal - Distal axis.

 

Distal:

[click here] 

Distal means away from the main structure.   For example, the foot is distal to the knee.

 

Proximal: 

[click here] 

Proximal means closer to the main strucutre.  For example, the shoulder is proximal to the hand. 

 

 Medial - Lateral Axis:

Medial

 [click here]

 

Lateral

[click here] 

 

 

 

Anterior - Posterior Axis

Posterior 

[click here] 

 

Anterior

[click here]

 

 

Superior - Inferior axis

[click here]

[click here]

[click here]

 

 

Rostral - Caudal axis

[click here]

[click here]

 

 

 

 

By the end of this section, make certain that you understand what each of these terms mean, and can apply them appropriately.  If applicable, make sure you can find each item on a whole brain, brain section, or image of a brain.

horizontal plane

<a href="/?page=oll&topic=2314&qid=2345"></a>

  • horizontal plane
  • coronal plane
  • transverse plane
  • sagittal plane
  • parasagittal sections
  • rostral
  • caudal
  • anterior
  • ventral
  • posterior
  • dorsal
  • superior
  • inferior
  • roximal
  • distal
  • afferent
  • efferent