There are 12 pairs of nerves that are connected directly to the brain stem. In contrast to peripheral nerves, which may have a variety of functions, cranial nerves tend to have a few specific functions. The cranial nerves are a common subject of study for anatomy students. These students typically make use of mnemonic phrases to memorize the names of these nerves.
Study the names of the cranial nerves. There are 12 such nerves, and they have the following names: olfactory, optic, oculomotor, trochlear, trigeminal, abducens, facial, vestibulocochlear, glossopharyngeal, vagus, accessory and hypoglossal. These nerves also may be referred to by its corresponding Roman numeral. For example, cranial nerve V is the trigeminal nerve.
Learn a mnemonic for the cranial nerves to recall their names in the correct order. This will be a phrase that you can memorize easily. It must consist of 12 words, each of which begins with the first letter of one of the 12 cranial nerves, in order. One such mnemonic phrase is, "Oh, Once One Takes The Anatomy Final, Very Good Vacations Are Heavenly."
Examine the functions of the first four cranial nerves. The olfactory nerve handles the sense of smell, the optic nerve is responsible for vision and the oculomotor nerve controls eye movement and pupil constriction. The trochlear nerve also controls eye movement.
Memorize the functions of cranial nerves five through eight. The trigeminal nerve handles sensations from the face and mouth and also controls the muscles responsible for chewing. The abducens nerve controls eye movement, and the facial nerve controls the facial muscles, tear glands and salivary glands. The vestibulocochlear nerve is responsible for balance and hearing.
Observe the functions of the last four cranial nerves. The glossopharyngeal controls the sense of taste as well as the muscles for salivation and swallowing. The vagus nerve also controls the swallowing muscles in addition to the muscles for speaking, abdominal and thoracic organs. The accessory nerve handles speech and some neck muscles, and the hypoglossal nerve controls the tongue.