Cranial Nerves

The cranial nerves are those that connect to the brain. In humans, they are composed of 12 pairs that start from the brain and connect it to the sense organs and muscles.

Meanwhile, the spinal or spinal nerves connect the spinal cord to sensory cells and various muscles throughout the body. These consist of 31 pairs.

The cranial nerves perform sensory and motor functions. The function is determined according to the structures innervated by each pair. The 12 pairs of cranial nerves are numbered, in Roman numerals, in cranio-caudal sequence.

Learn more about the Brain .

Cranial nerves and their respective functions

I- Olfactory nerves

They originate in the olfactory region of each nasal fossa, cross the ethmoid bone and end in the olfactory bulb.

They have an exclusively sensitive function, being responsible for the conduction of olfactory impulses.

II- Optical nerves

They are composed of a thick bundle of nerve fibers originating in the retinal region that penetrate the skull through the optical channel.

They have a strictly sensitive function.

III- Oculomotor nerve

It is a motor nerve, responsible for the movement of the eyes.

IV- Trochlear nerve

It is a nerve with a sensitive and motor part, also related to eye movement and vision.

V – Trigeminal nerve

It has a motor and a sensitive portion.

The motor portion acts on the muscles related to chewing.

The sensory portion has three branches: ophthalmic, maxillary and mandibular. It is responsible for the innervation of the face, part of the scalp and the innermost regions of the skull.

VI – Abducent nerve

It is responsible for the innervation of the lateral rectus muscle of the eye.

VII- Facial nerve

It is a mixed nerve, presenting a motor and a sensory portion. The motor portion is represented by the facial nerve itself, related to facial expressions, saliva secretion and the production of tears.

The facial nerve provides motor innervation to all the cutaneous muscles of the head and neck.

The sensory portion is called the intermediate nerve and acts on muscle and taste sensitivity.

VIII- Vestibulocochlear nerve

It is an exclusively sensitive nerve. In reference to its name, it has the vestibular and cochlear part.

The vestibular part is related to balance. The cochlear part is related to hearing.

IX- Glossopharyngeal nerve

It is a nerve with sensory and motor function. It is responsible for the sensitivity of part of the tongue, pharynx and auditory tube. The motor part is related to the muscles of the pharynx.

X- Vague nerve

It is a nerve with motor and sensory function. It innervates almost all the organs below the neck, with parasympathetic innervation. It is responsible for maintaining vital functions such as heart rate regulation.

XI- Accessory nerve

It is an essentially motor nerve, acting in functions related to swallowing and head and neck movements.

XII – Hypoglossal nerve

It is an exclusively motor nerve. It emerges from the skull through the hypoglossal canal and goes to the intrinsic and extrinsic muscles of the tongue. Relating to the movement of the tongue.


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