Cranial Nerves and Their Functions
Did you know that there are 12 pairs of cranial nerves that perform some highly sophisticated functions? Some of these direct the activities of our muscles, some relay information from the sensory organs to the brain, and some are linked to internal organs such as the heart and lungs. Injuries to the neck and head can affect these nerves, leading to many ailments besides just headaches and neck pain!
Each of the cranial nerves is referred to by Roman Numerals:
i. Olfactory – linked to the sense of smell
ii. Optic – linked to vision
iii. Oculomotor – connected to eye movement and dilating the pupils
iv. Trochlear – also connected to eye movement, particularly eyelids and eyeball
v. Trigeminal – linked to facial sensation and chewing
vi. Abducens – linked to side-to-side eye movement
vii. Facial – controls facial movements, taste and sensory information from the ear
viii. Vestibulocochlear – relates to hearing and sense of balance
ix. Glossopharyngeal – controls muscles for swallowing and our sensation of taste
x. Vagus – motor function to the larynx, modulates heart rate and digestive organs
xi. Spinal Accessory – controls the muscles responsible for head movement
xii. Hypoglossal – controls the muscles of the tongue
Of course, any type of disease, injury or accident to a cranial nerve may affect the functioning of what that specific nerve controls. Just as chiropractors can test the functioning of nerves that exit along your spine, there are tests which can reveal whether each cranial nerve is functioning properly.