Medical Terminology Daily (MTD) is a blog sponsored by Clinical Anatomy Associates, Inc. as a service to the medical community, medical students, and the medical industry. We will post a workweek daily medical or surgical term, its meaning and usage, as well as biographical notes on anatomists, surgeons, and researchers through the ages. Be warned that some of the images used depict human anatomical specimens.

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A Moment in History

Johann Gottfried Zinn

Johann Gottfried Zinn

Anatomist and botanist, Johann Gottfried Zinn was born on December 6, 1727 in the city of Ansbach, Germany. He started his medical studies in his native city, becoming later a student of Dr.  Albrecht von Hallers at the University of Göttingen, and received his MD in 1749.

He left for Berlin to continue his studies but came back shortly thereafter. He became a professor of anatomy at the University of Göttingen and in 1753 he also became the director of the botanical garden in the same city.

He is known for his anatomical treatise on the anatomy of the human eye: “Descriptio anatomica oculi humani iconibus illustrata”. Because of this, his name has become an eponym in the “Zonule of Zinn”, a ring of strands that forms a fibrous band connecting the ciliary body with the capsule of the lens of the eye. Zonule of Zinn is sometimes referred to as the suspensory ligaments of the lens, or the “ligament of Zinn”. His name is also attached to the anular ring tendon found in the posterior aspect of the eye, the "anular tendon of Zinn". This ring serves as attachment for all the extraocular muscles of the eye and the optic nerve passes through the center of the ring.

Carol Linné (Carolus Linneaus) named a genus of flowers in the family Asteraceae known vernacularly today as “Zinnia” in his honor. Hover your cursor over his portrait to see the flower.

The chapter on orbital anatomy of his anatomy book, taken from the second edition in 1780, has been translated and the first of three parts is published in an issue of “Strabismus”

His book "Catalogus Plantarum Horti Academici Et Agri" can be seen online here.

His life was short, dying at the early age of 32, but his name lives on in the name of a beautiful flower.

1. “Johann Gottfried Zinn" Simonz, HJ Strabismus – 2004, Vol. 12, No. 2, p. 125 
2. "Anatomical Description of the Human Eye" Zinn, JG Strabismus, 13:45–52, 2005 
Images: Public Domain by Wikipedia Commons. 1. Own work I_am Jin, and H. Wilhem Dietz

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Levator scapulæ muscle

The levator scapulae muscle (levator anguli scapulæ) is a triangular multipennate muscle which extends between the cervical spine and the scapula. This muscle is deep to the sternocleidomastoid and trapezius muscle.

It is formed by discrete muscular slips that originate from the first four transverse processes (C1-C4). It can have an extra slip from C5 (as shown in the side image).

These muscular slips pass posteroinferiorly, joining, and inserting in the superior scapular angle and the scapular medial border between the superior scapular angle and the medial origin of the scapular spine. It may attach to the scapular spine.

There are other anatomical variations including muscular slips that may extend to the occipital bone or mastoid process, to the trapezius, scalene, or serratus anterior magnus muscles, or to the first or second rib.

It receives nerve supply from the fourth and fifth cervical nerves and by a branch from the dorsal scapular nerve. The dorsal scapular nerve arises from the C5 root of the brachial plexus.

It receives its blood supply from the dorsal scapular artery.

The function of this muscle depends on which bony element is fixed, the scapula or the cervical spine. When the spine is fixed, the levator scapulae elevates the scapula and pulls the superior portion of the medial scapular border superomedially. When only one scapula is fixed, the head and neck flexes and rotates ipsilaterally while it extends the neck contralaterally.

The order and shape of the muscular slips is interesting, as the slip from the transverse process of the Atlas (C1) twists posteriorly and descends to insert as the most posterior and inferior fibers in the medial border of the scapula. The other slips follow a similar pattern, which is what allows this muscle to rotate the neck. This indicates that the fibers of the levator scapulae muscle are spiral and the fibers follow the contour of the neck. This makes (to my knowledge) the levator scapulae the only spiral muscle of the body. This is shown as "A" in the second side image; "B" represents the misconception on the direction of the fibers in this muscle.

Since it is a common sign of stress and bad posture to raise the shoulders, this muscle can spasm, causing neck pain and in some cases be a trigger for headaches.

Note: The first side image shown in this article is from “Gray’s Anatomy” (1918) which is in the public domain. The second side image is from Arnold’s “Reconstructive Anatomy” (1968).

Levator scapulæ muscle - Image modified from the original by Testut and Latarjet. Public domain
Levator scapulæ muscle.
Click on the image for a larger depiction 

Levator scapulæ muscle fibers - Image modified from the original by Arnold 1968
Levator scapulæ muscle fibers.
Click on the image for a larger depiction

Note: Animated image below by Wikimedia Commons - Anatomography [CC BY-SA 2.1 jp (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.1/jp/deed.en)]
Anatomography [CC BY-SA 2.1 jp (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.1/jp/deed.en)]

1. “Gray’s Anatomy” Henry Gray, 1918
2. "Tratado de Anatomia Humana" Testut et Latarjet 8th Ed. 1931 Salvat Editores, Spain

2. "Tratado de Anatomía Humana" Testut et Latarjet 8th Ed. 1931 Salvat Editores, Spain
3. "Gray's Anatomy" 38th British Ed. Churchill Livingstone 1995
4. “An Illustrated Atlas of the Skeletal Muscles” Bowden, B. 4th Ed. Morton Publishing. 2015
5. “Reconstructive Anatomy, A Method for the Study of Human Structure” Arnold, M. W.B. Saunders. 1968“Gray’s Anatomy” Henry Gray, 1918