Review of Cranial Nerves

Gross Anatomy

Review of Cranial Nerves


About each cranial nerve you should know the following:

  1. The bony opening in the cranial cavity through which it exits.

  2. Its general course and the branches that have been discussed in lecture.

  3. Any additional openings in bone that the nerve or its branches pass through.

  4. Whether it is somatic or visceral, motor or sensory, general or special, and if it carries pre- or postganglionic parasympathetic fibers. Several of the cranial nerves are quite simple in this regard. Several are very complex (i.e., V, VII, IX).

  5. Know the target organ or region supplied by each.



abducenspons: abducens nucleusGSE: lateral rectus m.also known as: CN VI, 6th cranial nerve; passes through the superior orbital fissure
accessorycranial root: nucleus ambiguus; spinal root: spinal nucleus of upper cervical spinal cordcranial root joins vagus; spinal root ascends through foramen magnumGSE: sternocleidomastoid and trapezius mm.also known as: CN XI, 11th cranial nerve; passes through jugular foramen; accessory n. is motor only; proprioceptive fibers reach sternocleidomastoid via C2&C3 and trapezius via C3&C4 (subtrapezial plexus)
facialpons & medulla: nucleus solitarius of medulla via nervus intermedius (SVA sensory root) from geniculate ganglion; superior salivatory nucleus (GVE preganglionic parasympathetic) of pons via nervus intermedius, facial motor nucleus of pons via motor rootgreater petrosal (preganglionic parasympathetic to pterygopalatine ganglion, postganglionic parasympathetic travels with brs. of maxillary div. of V), chorda tympani (SVA taste from anterior 2/3rds of tongue; preganglionic parasympathetic to submandibular ganglion, postganglionic parasympathetic to submandibular & sublingual glands), n. to stapedius, posterior auricular, intraparotid plexus with temporal, zygomatic, buccal, marginal mandibular & cervical brs.stapedius, stylohyoid, posterior belly of digastric, muscles of facial expression; secretomotor to lacrimal, submandibular, sublingual, and mucous glands of nasal & oral cavitiestaste (SVA) from anterior 2/3rds of tongue; part of skin of external auditory meatusalso known as: CN VII, 7th cranial nerve; passes into internal acoustic meatus, goes through facial canal, exits at stylomastoid foramen
ganglion, ciliarypreganglionic parasympathetic via inferior division of oculomotor n. (III)postganglionic parasympathetic via short ciliary nn.sphincter pupillae & ciliary mm.a parasympathetic ganglion; it does NOT contain cell bodies of sensory neurons; located on lateral side of optic n. near apex of orbit
ganglion, oticpreganglionic parasympathetic via lesser petrosal, from tympanic n. of glossopharyngeal n. (IX)postgangganglionic parsympathetic via parotid brs. of auriculotemporal n.secretomotor to parotid glandhangs off mandibular division of trigeminal inferomedial to foramen ovale
ganglion, pterygopalatinepreganglionic parasympathetic via n. of pterygoid canal from greater petrosal n. of facial; postganglionic sympathetic via n. of pterygoid canal from deep petrosal n.postganglionic parasympathetic via greater & lesser palatine, nasopalatine, zygomaticsecretomotor to: mucous glands of palate & nasal cavity, lacrimal glandhangs off maxillary division of trigeminal within pterygopalatine fossa; preganglionic axons of the greater petrosal n. will synapse here; postganglionic sympathetic axons of the deep petrosal n. will pass through without synapsing
ganglion, submandibularpreganglionic parasympathetic from chorda tympani accompanying lingual n.postganganglionic parasympathetic to submandibular & sublingual glandssecretomotor to submandibular & sublingual glandshangs off lingual n. above deep part of submandibular gland
glossopharyngeal n. medulla: spinal trigeminal nucleus from the superior ganglion (GVA); nucleus solitarius from the inferior ganglion (SVA); nucleus ambiguus (SVE); inferior salivatory nucleus (GVE - preganglionic parasympathetic) tympanic nerve to the tympanic plexus and lesser petrosal n., carotid sinus n., stylopharyngeus brs., pharyngeal brs. SVE: stylopharyngeus; GVE: secretomotor to the parotid gland (preganglionic parasympathetic via the tympanic n. to the lesser petrosal n. to the otic ganglion; postganglionic parasympathetic via the auriculotemporal n.) GVA: carotid body, carotid sinus, pharynx, middle ear; GSA: skin of the external ear; SVA: taste from the posterior 1/3 of the tongue also known as: CN IX, 9th cranial nerve; the glossopharyngeal n. exits the posterior cranial fossa by passing through the jugular foramen;it may penetrate the stylopharyngeus m.
hypoglossalmedulla: hypoglossal nucleusbranches of C1 carried by this nerve are not considered to be branches of the hypoglossal nerveintrinsic and extrinsic muscles of the tongue (except palatoglossus m.)also known as: CN XII, 12th cranial nerve; passes through the hypoglossal canal; superior root of ansa cervicalis travels with the hypoglossal n.
mandibulartrigeminal ganglion; motor root of trigeminal from ponsmeningeal br., medial & lateral pterygoid, masseteric, anterior & posterior deep temporal, buccal, auriculotemporal, lingual, inferior alveolarmylohyoid, anterior belly of digastric; tensor tympani, tensor veli palatini; muscles of mastication (temporalis, masseter, medial & lateral pterygoid)GSA: skin of lower lip & jaw extending superiorly above level of ear; GVA: tongue, & floor of mouth, lower teeth & gingivaalso known as: V3, mandibular division of trigeminal; passes through foramen ovale; otic ganglion hangs off medial side of V3 below foramen ovale; auriculotemporal n. carries postganglionic parasympathetic to parotid gland; submandibular ganglion hangs off lingual n. near submandibular gland; postganglionic parasympathetics reach this gland & sublingual gland
maxillarytrigeminal ganglionmeningeal br., posterior superior alveolar, pharyngeal, posterior superior medial & lateral nasal brs., nasopalatine, greater & lesser palatine, zygomatic, infraorbitalGSA: skin of upper lip, cheek, lower eyelid; GVA: palate upper teeth & gingiva, most of nasal cavity, maxillary sinusalso known as: V2, maxillary division of trigeminal; passes through foramen rotundum to enter pterygopalatine fossa; pterygopalatine ganglion hangs off here, postganglionic parasympathetic fibers go with maxillary brs. to mucous glands of nasal cavity & palate, and with zygomatic n. & its brs. to orbit to reach lacrimal gland
oculomotorGSE: oculomotor nuclei of midbrain; GVE: accessory (Edinger-Westphal) nucleus (preganglionic parasympathetic)superior br., inferior br.superior br.: levator palpebrae superioris, superior rectus; inferior br: medial rectus, inferior rectus, inferior oblique; ciliary muscle & sphincter pupillae (GVE preganglionic parasympathetic to ciliary ganglion via parasympathetic root, postganglionic parasympathetic via short ciliary nn.)also known as: CN III, 3rd cranial nerve; passes through superior orbital fissure
olfactoryolfactory epithelium to forebrainsmell (SVA)also known as: CN I, 1st cranial nerve; passes through cribriform plate to synapse in olfactory bulb; olfactory tract carries signal from bulb to olfactory cortex of forebrain
ophthalmictrigeminal ganglionmeningeal br., lacrimal, frontal, nasociliaryskin of forehead, upper eyelid & nose, upper nasal cavity & frontal, ethmoid & sphenoid sinuses (GSA)also known as: V1, ophthalmic division of trigeminal; passes through superior orbital fissure; lacrimal n. receives postgang. parasymp. to lacrimal gland from zygomaticotemporal br. of zygomatic n.
opticganglion layer of retina to forebrainvision (SSA)also known as: CN II, 2nd cranial nerve; course of optic nerve - through optic canal to optic chiasma, then optic tract to lateral geniculate body & optic radiation
trigeminalpons: trigeminal motor nucleus (SVE) to motor root; spinal trigeminal nucleus from trigeminal ganglion (GSA) via sensory rootophthalmic, maxillary & mandibular divisionsSVE: temporalis, masseter, lateral & medial pterygoid, anterior belly of digastric, mylohyoid, tensor veli palatini, tensor tympaniskin of face, nasal & oral cavities, ant. 2/3rds of tongue (GSA only)also known as: CN V, 5th cranial nerve; some brs. carry pre- or postganglionic parasympathetic fibers; divides into three divisions at trigeminal ganglion; SVE supplies muscles of branchial arch origin
trochleartrochlear nucleus of midbrainsuperior oblique (GSE)also known as: CN IV, 4th cranial nerve; passes through superior orbital fissure; smallest cranial nerve, only cranial nerve to arise from dorsum of brainstem
vagusmedulla: dorsal nucleus (GVA & GVE preganglionic parasympathetic) from inferior ganglion, nucleus ambiguus (SVE); spinal trigeminal nucleus (GSA) from superior ganglion; nucleus solitarius (SVA) from inferior ganglionauricular br., pharyngeal br., superior laryngeal, superior & inferior cervical cardiac brs., recurrent laryngeal, thoracic cardiac brs., brs. to pulmonary plexus, esophageal plexus, anterior & posterior vagal trunksSVE: intrinsic muscles of larynx, pharynx (except stylopharyngeus), & palate (except tensor veli palatini); GVE: smooth muscle of respiratory tree & gut (proximal to splenic flexure), heart; secretomotor: mucous glands of larynx, respiratory tree, pharynx & gut, digestive glandsGSA: skin of external auditory meatus; GVA: viscera of head, neck, thorax & abdomen proximal to splenic flexure; SVA: taste to epiglottisalso known as: CN X, 10th cranial nerve; passes through jugular foramen; vagus means "wanderer" in reference to its extensive distribution to the body cavities
vestibulocochlearpons & medulla: vestibular nuclei from vestibular ganglion of semicircular ducts; cochlear nuclei in inferior cerebellar peduncle from spiral ganglion of cochleadivides within the temporal bone into vestibular and cochlear partsvestibular: balance/proprioception (SSA); cochlear: hearing (SSA)also known as: CN VIII, 8th cranial nerve; auditory nerve; passes into internal auditory meatus

Some of the material presented in these tables is contained in the book:
MedCharts Anatomy by Thomas R. Gest and Jaye Schlesinger
Published by ILOC, Inc., New York. Copyright 1995.

Content of tables edited for use in this course by Patrick W. Tank, Ph.D.
Copyright 2001, Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
Unauthorized use is prohibited.

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