How to Use a Cranial Nerves Mnemonic to Memorize the Twelve Cranial Nerves

by Jill Davis Google

When a student is in medical school, there are a myriad of names of body parts and functions to learn. Using a trick called a mnemonic device helps make the memorization of them easier. One type of mnemonic device is making up a phrase where each word begins with the letter of the terms that are being memorized. Medical students have created several of these to learn the 12 cranial nerves.

The Cranial Nerves

There are 12 cranial nerves: Olfactory, Optic, Oculomotor, Trochlear, Trigeminal, Abducens, Facial, Vestibulocochlear, Glossopharyngeal, Vagus, Spinal Accessory and the Hypoglossal. Trying to remember them just by memorization is a difficult task because of the unfamiliar sounding words.

A Few Mnemonic Tricks

One trick to make memorization easier is to take the first letter of each word you are trying to memorize and make a new familiar word with it. A common mnemonic device that many people are familiar with is used when learning to play the piano. Many music students remember "Every Good Boy Does Fine" as the phrase they learned to remember the notes on the lines on the treble clef as E, G, B, D and F. The same trick can be used to learn the cranial nerves.

On Old Olympus

By taking the first letter of each cranial nerve, you can create a new phrase to substitute for the difficult nerve names that don't easily roll off of the tongue. For the first nerve, olfactory, replace it with the word "on." For the second nerve, optic, use the word "old." Continue on this way until you have the phrase, "On Old Olympus' Towering Top, A Famous Vocal German Viewed Some Hops." When faced with a test of the nerves, it is much easier to remember this phrase and call to mind the difficult terms such as "vestibulocochlear" and "glossopharyngeal." Once you learn what each first letter stands for, you will be on your way to mastering the list.

Another Mnemonic Phrase

Another mnemonic phrase used to memorize the cranial nerves is, "Oh Once One Takes The Anatomy Final, Very Good Vacations So Heavenly." Any number of phrases can be made from the nerves. If neither of these strikes your fancy or helps you to easily remember, develop one of your own that makes more sense to you.

Additional Tricks

Medical students may also have to memorize the type of each cranial nerve: sensory, motor or both. Using the same mnemonic trick, this phrase comes in handy: "Some Say More Money, But My Brother Says Big Books Matter More." In this way, students can remember that the first nerve, the olfactory nerve, is a sensory nerve, and so forth.