Cranial nerve nuclei

Last revised by Frank Gaillard on 28 Feb 2023

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 the 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, branchiomotor 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: motor nuclei
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  • Figure 2: sensory nuclei
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  • Figure 3: interconnection of cranial nerve nuclei
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  • Figure 4: brainstem nuclei: dorsal section
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