OBJECT: The authors conducted a study to examine the detailed anatomy of the denticulate ligaments and to assess their classic role in spinal cord stability within the spinal canal. METHODS: Detailed observation of the denticulate ligaments in 12 adult cadavers was performed. Stress was applied in all major planes to discern when the ligaments would become taut, and at the same time, gross motion of the cord was observed at sites distal to the stresses applied. Tension necessary for avulsion of the ligaments in various areas of the spinal cord was also measured. CONCLUSIONS: These results show that the denticulate ligaments do not inhibit cord motion to such discrete areas of the cord as was once thought. The authors have determined that the ligaments are stronger in the cervical region and that they decrease in strength as the spinal cord descends. These findings are demonstrative of the denticulate ligaments being more resistant to caudal compared with cephalad stresses in the cord. Anterior and posterior motion is constrained by these ligaments but to a limited degree, especially as one descends inferiorly along the cord. Further embryological and functional studies of these ligaments is needed in non-formalin fixed tissues.