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There are total 12 pairs of cranial nerves that originate from our brain and brain stem. Each of them carries different functions related to different senses of body. Apart from sensory functions there are also some that work as motor nerves or mixed nerves. Here is a brief description of 12 cranial nerves.

1.   Olfactory

 This is a type of sensory nerve that contributes in the sense of smell in human being. These basically provide the specific cells that are termed as olfactory epithelium. It carries the information from nasal epithelium to the olfactory center in brain.


2.   Optic nerve

This again is a type of sensory nerve that transforms information about vision to the brain. To be specific this supplies information to the retina in the form of ganglion cells.

12 cranial nerves

3.   Oculomoter nerve

 This is a form of motor nerve that supplies to different centers along midbrain. Its functions include superiorly uplifting eyelid, superiorly rotating eyeball, construction of pupil on the exposure to light and operating several eye muscles.

4.   Trochlear 

 This motor nerve also supplies to the midbrain and performs the function of handling the eye muscles and turning the eye.

5.   Trigeminal 

 This is a type of largest cranial nerve in all and performs many sensory functions related to nose, eyes, tongue and teeth. It basically is further divided in three branches that are ophthalmic, maxillary and mandibular nerve. This is a type of mixed nerve that performs sensory and motor functions in brain.

6.   Abducent 

 This is again a type of motor nerve that supplies to the pons and perform function of turning eye laterally.

7.   Facial 

 This motor nerve is responsible for different types of facial expressions. This also performs some functions of sensory nerve by supplying information about touch on face and senses of tongue in mouth. It is basically present over brain stem.

8.   Vestibulocochlear 

 This motor nerve is basically functional in providing information related to balance of head and sense of sound or hearing. It carries vestibular as well as cochlear information to the brain and is placed near inner ear.

9.   Glossopharyngeal 

 This is a sensory nerve which carries sensory information from pharynx (initial portion of throat) and some portion of tongue and palate. The information sent is about temperature, pressure and other related facts.

It also covers some portion of taste buds and salivary glands. The nerve also carries some motor functions such as helping in swallowing food.

10.       Vagus 

This is also a type of mixed nerve that carries both motor and sensory functions. This basically deals with the area of pharynx, larynx, esophagus, trachea, bronchi, some portion of heart and palate. It works by constricting muscles of the above areas. In sensory part, it contributes in the tasting ability of the human being.

11.       Spinal accessory nerve

 As the name intimates this motor nerve supplies information about spinal cord, trapezius and other surrounding muscles. It also provides muscle movement of the shoulders and surrounding neck.

12.       Hypoglossal nerve

 This is a typical motor nerve that deals with the muscles of tongue.

These are the 12 cranial nerves that carry many important functions in body.