Cranial nerve nuclei

Last revised by Assoc Prof Craig Hacking on 18 Sep 2020

The cranial nerve nuclei are a series of bilateral grey matter motor and sensory nuclei located in the midbrain, pons and medulla that are the collections of afferent and efferent cell bodies for many of the cranial nerves.

Some nuclei are small and contribute to a single cranial nerve, such as some of th motor nuclei. Other nuclei, however, are long and span several regions of the brainstem contributing to several cranial nerves. Several motor and sensory nuclei form longitudinal columns in the brainstem, leading to some authors describing them as single discontinuous longitudinal nuclear columns rather than the more numerous individual separate nuclei. Three long discontinuous efferent columns have been described: somatic, brachiomotor and parasympathetic.

Extensive interconnections exist between many of these nuclei, as well as with other brainstem nuclei and white matter tracts such as the medial lemniscus and medial longitudinal fasciculus.


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Cases and figures

  • Figure 1: cranial nerve nuclei (illustration)
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  • Figure 2: brainstem motor nuclei - Gray's anatomy illustration
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  • Figure 3: brainstem sensory nuclei - Gray's anatomy illustration
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  • Figure 4: brainstem nuclei: dorsal section - Gray's anatomy illustration
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  • Figure 5: interconnection of cranial nerve nuclei (Gray's illustration)
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  • Figure 6: cranial nerve nuclei (axial diagrams)
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