Summary of Cranial Nerve Nuclei

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1. Olfactory nerve (CN 1):

Special sensory: Olfactory areas of the brain.

2. Optic nerve (CN 2):

Special sensory: visual cortex.

3. Oculomotor nerve (CN 3):

Motor-striated and smooth muscle (eye movements).

a. Somatic motor nucleus (midbrain).

b. Somatic visceral nucleus (Edinger- Wesphal or accessory oculomotor nucleus).

4. Trochlear nerve (CN 4):


Motor nucleus sited in the periaqueductal grey matter of the midbrain (level of inferior colliculus).

Supplies sup. oblique muscle.

5. Trigeminal nerve (CN 5):

Mixed motory and general sensory. Mastication and sensation of the head.

Four Nuclei: One motor, three sensory.

a. Motor nucleus (pontine tegmentum) i.e. pons.

b. Pontine trigeminal nucleus (chief sensory nucleus) - pons.

c. Spinal tract nucleus (inferior pons and throughout medulla).

d. Mesencephalic nucleus (cerebral aqueduct).

6. Abducent nerve (CN 6):

Motor to lateral rectus muscle.

Abducts eye.


Motor - median plane of pons, deep to facial colliculus - floor of the 4th ventricle.

7. Facial nerve (CN 7):

Mixed motory and sensory (N. intermedius). Facial expression and taste anterior two thirds of tongue.


a. Facial motor nucleus - pons.

b. Nucleus solitarius - rostral end in medulla: special sensory root (taste).

c. Associations: geniculate ganglion, sensory nucleus of CN 5.

8. Vestibular nerve (CN 8):

Equilibrium (vestibular) and hearing (cochlear).


a. Vestibular nucleus (4): junction of pons and medulla, floor of the 4th ventricle.

b. Cochlear nucleus (2): dorsal and ventral. Rostral end of medulla, adjacent to base of the inferior cerebellar peduncle.

9. Glossopharyngeal nerve (CN 9):

Mixed motor and sensory: supplies posterior third tongue and pharynx.


Shares 4 nuclei with CN 10 and 11 (two motory, two sensory).

a. Nucleus ambiguous - medulla.

b. Inferior salivary nucleus - pons.

c. Nucleus of the tractus solitarius - medulla.

d. Sensory nucleus of the trigeminus - medulla.

10. Vagus nerve (CN 10):

Motory and sensory: Wide distribution to head, neck, thorax and abdomen.

Nuclei: (4):

Two motory and two sensory.

a. Nucleus ambiguous.

b. Nucleus of tractus solitarius.

c. Dorsal nucleus of the vagus.

d. Sensory nucleus of the trigeminus (CN 5).

11. Accessory nerve (CN 11):

Motor: Sternomastoid and trapezius muscle.

Nuclei: (2)

a. Nucleus ambiguous (medulla) - cranial root.

b. Spinal nucleus (spinal root) - C1 - C5 segments of the spinal cord.

12. Hypoglossal nerve (CN 12)

Motor: Motor nerve of the tongue.


Dorsal part of the medulla, floor of the 4th ventricle.

Levels of Nuclei:

1. Midbrain: 3, 4, mesencephalic 5, sensory 5.

2. Pons: Motor 5, mesencephalic 5, sensory 5, 6, 7, N. intermedius.

3. Medulla: Spinal 5, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12.

4. Clustered around, pons-medulla interface and floor of the 4th ventricle: 6, 7, 8, spinal 5, nucleus ambiguous (9 + 10), 10, 11, 12, salivary nuclei (7 + 9).

Further Topics on Cranial Nerves:

1. Introduction to Cranial Nerves
2. Notes on Olfactory Nerve CN 1
3. Notes on Optic Nerve CN 2
4. Notes on Oculomotor Nerve CN 3
5. Notes on Trochlear Nerve CN 4
6. Notes on Trigeminal Nerve CN 5
7. Notes on Abducens Nerve CN 6
8. Notes on Facial Nerve CN 7
9. Notes on Vestibulocochlear Nerve CN 8
10. Notes on Glossopharyngeal Nerve CN 9
11. Notes on Vagus Nerve CN 10
12. Notes on Accessory Nerve CN 11
13. Notes on Hypoglossal Nerve CN 12
14. Summary of Cranial Nerve Nuclei
15. Summary of Cranial Nerve Functions

Additional Reading:

Basic Neurology

1. Peripheral Nervous System
2. Central Nervous System
3. The Ventricular System
4. The Spinal Cord
5. The Brain Stem
6. The Cerebellum
7. Visual Pathways
8. Diencephalon
9. Basal Ganglia
10. Cerebral Cortex
11. Sleep Disorders
12. Autonomic Nervous System
13. Cranial Nerves and Parasympathetic Ganglia
14. Cells of the Nervous System
15. Cerebrospinal fluid
16. Additional short notes on Cerebrum
17. Functions and Diseases of Cerebrum
18. Subcortical Grey Matter
19. Notes on The Spinal Cord
20. Regulation of Heart Rate by Autonomic Nervous System
21. Action Potentials, Axon Conduction, and Neuromuscular Junction
22. Types of Seizures
23. What is a Cough Reflex?
24. Notes on Congenital Prosopagnosia
25. Findings in Parkinson's Disease
26. Types of Heat Strokes
27. Types of Strokes
28. What is Benign Intracranial Hypertension?
29. What is Cauda Equina Syndrome?
30. Cranial Nerve Locations in Brain Stem

Neurology Videos

1. Video of Neurology Examination in a Clinical Setting

Medical Images

Useful Medical Images & Diagrams (link opens in a new window)

Related Topics

1. Nervous System Disorders
2. Histology of Nervous Tissue
3. Cranial Nerve Reflexes
4. Motor System Examination

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