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Twelve Cranial Nerves and their Functions

Introduction to twelve cranial nerves and their functions

Cranial nerves directly arise from brain and are conventionally numbered by roman numerals. Out of 12 pairs of cranial nerves, afferent nerves arise from motor nuclei with in brain and the efferent cranial nerves arise in sensor ganglion along the course of nerve, out side the brain.

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Twelve Types of Cranial Nerves and Functions

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Olfactory I: This sensory cranial nerve located in olfactory bulb of brain and has olfactory receptors for sense of smell.

Optic Nerve II: This sensory cranial nerve leads from eyes to thalamus. It is responsible for sense of sight of retina.

Oculomotor Nerve III: This motor nerve arise from midbrain and leads to eye muscles (including eyelids and lens) and pupil. This nerve is associated with eye movement and pupil constriction.

Trochlear Nerve IV: This motor nerve arises from midbrain and leads to eye muscles. It works with oculomotor nerve to produce the eye movements.

Trigeminal Nerve V: This cranial nerve, located in pons, has both sensory and motor nerve fibers. It leads to most of the face (including eyes and mouth) and carry somatosensory information to face, head and chewing muscles of jaws.

Abducens Nerve VI: Another mixed cranial nerve, located in pons. This is associated with eye movement.

Facial VII: This is mixed cranial nerve, located in pons. Facial nerve splits into several branches that control the muscles used for facial expressions (smiling, frowning etc).  It also stimulates salivary glands to produce saliva.

A branch of facial nerve carries taste sensation from the front 2/3 part of the tongue. The facial nerve comes out just below the ear and passes through the salivary gland. Part of facial nerves carries sensation from the outside of the ear.

Vestibulocochlear VIII: This sensory cranial nerve leads from inner ear to pons and is associated with sense of hearing and balance.

Glossopharyngeal IX: This is a mixed cranial nerve, located in medulla oblongata. This is sensory to posterior of throat (pharynx) and is associated with taste sensation from rest 1/3 part of tongue. This is also associated with gag reflexes.

Vagus X: This is a sensory cranial nerve that leads from many visceral organs to medulla oblongata. It carries somatosensory information from organs of thoracic, abdominal cavity including heart and from that of gastrointestinal tract.

Spinal Accessory Nerve XI: This motor nerve arises from medulla oblongata and leads to muscles of neck, back and larynx. It controls the head movement.

Hypoglossal Nerve XII: This motor nerve arises from medulla oblongata and controls the muscles of tongue.

Ventral Surface of Brain Showing the Twelve Pairs of Cranial Nerves

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