The Cranial Nerves
Completed by Joanna Culley in watercolour, this gallery contains realism medical illustrations of all the twelve pairs of cranial nerves that stem from the ventral surface of the human brain. All the cranial nerves emerge from the brain, with the anatomical difference being that nerves 1 and 2 emerge from the cerebrum and the other ten emerge from the actual brainstem. The cranial nerves are called as such, as all other nerves supplying the human body derive from the spinal cord or nervous system. Hence the cranial nerves all derive from the brain. The cranial nerves pass through the skull foramina, fissures, or canals to exit the cranial vault where they distribute to their respective structures.
The Functions of the Cranial Nerves
The function of the nerves in the human body is to control motor or movement plus to carry sensory information to structures in the head, neck, thorax and abdomen. They carry out specific tasks as illustrated in each of the images below, and are separated from other nerves within the human body because they all stem from the brain. The primary function of the nerve cells in the body, therefore, is communication. This is accomplished by passing electrical and/or chemical messages from neuron to neuron, or from neuron to other target cells.
Origins of the Cranial Nerves
The brain contains the origins of each of the 12 cranial nerves, and number 12 the upper cervical spinal cord. The fibres of the nerves can be traced to the substance of the brain to a special nucleus of grey substance. Made up of both sensory and afferent (motor) the cranial nerves arise from groups of nerve cells outside the brain.
Some of these nerve cells are grouped to form ganglia on the trunks of the nerves or may be situated in peripheral sensory organs such as the nose and eye. The ganglia are bulb shaped tissue masses and are simply a mass of nerve cell bodies.
The nerves perform our most vital functions such as sight, eating, balance and hearing. The nerves travel to their various organs, and exit and enter the cranium through small holes or foramina in the base of the cranium.
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