The Cranial Nerves



With the exception of the olfactory and optic nerves, all cranial nerves enter or leave the brain stem. Three of the cranial nerves are purely sensory (I, II and VIII), five are motor (III, IV, VI, XI and XII) and the remaining nerves (V, VII, IX and X) are mixed. The olfactory nerve will be discussed in ► Chap.  14, the optic nerve in ► Chap.  8 and the cochlear nerve in ► Chap.  7. The nuclei of the cranial nerves are arranged in an orderly, more or less columnar fashion in the brain stem: motor nuclei, somatomotor, branchiomotor and visceromotor (parasympathetic), derived from the basal plate, are located medially, whereas sensory nuclei, somatosensory, viscerosensory and vestibulocochlear, derived from the alar plate, are found lateral to the sulcus limitans. The cranial nerves innervate structures in the head and neck as well as visceral organs in the thorax and abdomen. The cranial nerves control eye movements, mastication, vocalization, facial expression, respiration, heart rate and digestion. One or several of the cranial nerves are often involved in lesions of the brain stem, of which the location can usually be determined if the topographical anatomy of the cranial nerves and their nuclei is known. Several examples are shown in Clinical cases.

Following a few notes on the development of the brain stem and congenital cranial dysinnervation disorders (► Sect. 6.2), the following structures will be discussed: (1) ocular motor nerves and the effects of lesions of individual ocular motor nerves (► Sect. 6.3); (2) eye movements and some disorders affecting them (► Sect. 6.4); (3) the trigeminal nerve and changes in the blink reflex (► Sect. 6.5); (4) the facial nerve and peripheral facial nerve paralysis (► Sect. 6.6); (5) the gustatory system (► Sect. 6.7); (6) the vestibulocochlear nerve, vestibular control and some peripheral and central vestibular syndromes (► Sect. 6.8); and (7) the last four cranial nerves and some disorders affecting them (► Sects. 6.9 and 6.10). The English terms of the Terminologia Neuroanatomica are used throughout.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.935 Department of NeurologyRadboud University Medical Centre and Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and BehaviourNijmegenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Department of Anatomy, Second Faculty of MedicineCharles UniversityPraha 5Czech Republic
  3. 3.400 Department of OphthalmologyRadboud University Medical CentreNijmegenThe Netherlands
  4. 4.Department of RadiologyUniversity Medical Centre GroningenGroningenThe Netherlands
  5. 5.Department of NeurologyZuyderland Medical CentreSittard-GeleenThe Netherlands

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