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Cranial nerve

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noun, plural: cranial nerves

Any of the paired nerves emerging from the brain (including the brainstem but not the spinal cord), and supplies the motor pathways between organs in the face and the upper body


Cranial nerves are paired nerves that emerge from the brain and the brainstem. Ten of these cranial nerves originate in the brainstem. They are in contrast to the spinal nerves emerging from the spinal cord. The cranial nerves pass through the holes in the skull and supply the motor pathways between organs in the face and the upper body. They are also responsible for many of the senses. In humans, the cranial nerves are as follows:

The cranial nerves are part of the peripheral nervous system rather than of the central nervous system. The olfactory, optic, and terminal nerves though, are structurally more apt to be part of the central nervous system.

Abbreviation / Acronym:

  • CN

See also: