Useful Mnemonics for Cranial Nerves | Sensory or Motor

Nursing, medical, and pharmaceutical students use mnemonics to memorize essential study material. This article comprises various helpful mnemonics for cranial nerves.

It also includes mnemonics for sensory, motor, or both nerves to recall the nerve type quickly.

You’ll quickly remember the twelve cranial nerves and their functions.

For reference, here’s a breakdown of the various cranial nerves.

12 Cranial Nerves Include:

  1. Olfactory
  2. Optic
  3. Oculomotor
  4. Trochlear
  5. Trigeminal
  6. Abducens
  7. Facial
  8. Vestibulocochlear
  9. Glossopharyngeal
  10. Vagus
  11. Accessory
  12. Hypoglossal

To form a mnemonic, use the first letter of each nerve to create an easy-to-remember word. For example, the above letters include O, O, O, T, T, A, F, V, G, V, A, H.

Then create a memorable sentence using the words in the correct order.

To illustrate, here’s an easy-to-remember mnemonic for cranial nerves.

Mnemonic: Occasionally Old Owls Travel Through Abandoned Farm Villages Gathering Vegetables And Herbs”.

As you see, I took the letters O, O, O, T, T, A, F, V, G, V, A, H and created words that form into a coherent sentence.

While an acronym is long and confusing, a mnemonic makes memorizing cranial nerves easier when taking tests and exams.

The following section covers more mnemonics for cranial nerves, so pick the most memorable one to develop your retention.

6 Memorable Mnemonics for Cranial Nerves

Determine the mnemonic you like best and practice reciting the sentence to remember the twelve cranial nerves easily.

Cranial Nerve Mnemonic #1: 

Occasionally Old Owls Travel Through Abandoned Farm Villages Gathering Vegetables And Herbs.

Cranial Nerve Mnemonic #2: 

Odd Officials Overdress Thinking Their Amusing Furry Vests Get Viewed As Heroic.

Cranial Nerve Mnemonic #3: 

Our Oaths Overcame The Temptations Arousing Fates Very Generous Vehicles And Homes.

Cranial Nerve Mnemonic #4:

Octopus Occupy Oceans Tying To Attain Food Visibly Growing Vulnerable And Helpless.

Cranial Nerve Mnemonic #5:

Our Original Objective To Travel Abroad Fostered Viewers Globally Volunteering Available Housing.

Cranial Nerve Mnemonic #6: 

Oh Oh Oh Those Trippy Alien Fruit Vines Generate Visions And Hallucinations.

Besides memorizing the mnemonics for cranial nerves, you must determine whether the nerve is sensory, motor, or both.

The next part covers mnemonics for sensory, motor, or both to simplify your learning and enhance retention.

Determining Sensory and Motor Nerves

The twelve cranial nerves are either sensory nerves, or motor nerves, or both sensory and motor nerves.

It’s essential to understand the different nerves and whether they’re (S) sensory, (M) motor, or (B) both.

Here’s a summary of the different nerves and their functions to identify their differences.

Nerve Types Include:

  1. Olfactory nerve (sensory)
  2. Optic nerve (sensory)
  3. Oculomotor nerve (motor)
  4. Trochlear nerve (motor)
  5. Trigeminal nerve (both)
  6. Abducens nerve (motor)
  7. Facial nerve (both)
  8. Vestibulocochlear nerve (sensory)
  9. Glossopharyngeal nerve (both)
  10. Vagus nerve (both)
  11. Accessory nerve (motor)
  12. Hypoglossal nerve (motor)

To create a sensory, nerve, or both mnemonic, use a similar process as mentioned for the twelve cranial nerves.

However, take the first letter of (S) sensory, (M) motor, or (B) both depending on the nerve type and create a new word from that letter.

For reference, the order for sensory, motor, or both is S, S, M, M, B, M, B, S, B, B, M, M for reference.

Although an acronym is long and confusing, a mnemonic works well.

Make sure the words form an easy-to-understand sentence you can quickly recall.

To illustrate, here’s an easy-to-remember mnemonic for sensory, motor, or both.

Mnemonic: Silly Sally Makes Maple Baked Muffins But Struggles Baking Basic Muffin Mixes

The subsequent section comprises extra mnemonics for sensory, motor, or both to promote faster recall.

5 Mnemonics for Sensory, Motor, or Both

Pick the most helpful mnemonic and recite the sentence until you remember the phrase quickly.

Sensory/Motor Mnemonic #1:

Silly Sally Makes Maple Baked Muffins But Struggles Baking Basic Muffin Mixes.

Sensory/Motor Mnemonic #2:

Salty Salad Mixes Make Bad Meals But Sweat Bread Brings Me Meaning.

Sensory/Motor Mnemonic #3:

Soothing Songs Make Macho Boys Mad But Strangely Build Better Macho Men.

Sensory/Motor Mnemonic #4:

Super Strength Moves Mountains But Makes Basic Struggles Blatently Boring Most Mornings.

Sensory/Motor Mnemonic #5:

Sugary Sweet Macadimas Make Brilliant Meals But Salted Batches Bring Me Melancholy.

The next part summarizes the cranial nerves to describe their functionality and provide a study reference.

The 12 Cranial Nerves – A Brief Overview

Cranial nerves originate from the cranium or brain stem and connect to the head, neck, and trunk. 

Basically, the cranial nerves receive information from the body and relay that information to the brain.

They also send information from the brain to various body parts depending on the function.

Information gathered from the nerves comes from two neurons types known as afferent and efferent neurons.

The two neuron types provide sensory or motor signals, with some nerves carrying both sensory and motor neurons.

Firstly, we have afferent neurons, which are sensory neurons.

These neurons travel from the body’s nerves to the brain via various sensory stimuli.

Afferent neurons let the brain know what’s going on through the body’s senses (sight, sound, touch, smell, taste, hearing).

It also provides sensory data such as pain and temperature.

Secondly, there are efferent neurons which are motor neurons.

These neurons carry stimuli away from the brain to stimulate muscles, glands, or other target cells.

The following section breaks down each cranial nerve to provide additional information on its purpose, functionality, and nerve type.

I. Olfactory Nerve

The olfactory nerve is the first cranial nerve ( CN I).

Its also one of two cranial nerves originating from the cerebrum.

This nerve operates entirely as a sensory nerve and provides a sense of smell (olfaction).

When you inhale fragrant molecules, the particles stimulate nerve receptors, and the nerve receptors send the signal to the brain.

Next, the signals are sent to the brain areas focused on memory and odor recognition to identify the smell.

In summary, the olfactory nerve impacts our smell.

II. Optic Nerve

Theoptic nerve is the second cranial nerve (CN II) originating from the cerebrum.

It functions as a sensory nerve and is accountable for transmitting visual information from the retina to the brain.

When light/information enters the eye, it comes in contact with the eyes cone and rod receptors.

Next, the information is then transmitted from the retina to the optic nerves.

Finally, the information travels through the nerve fibers of each retina through the optic tract to reach the visual cortex.

As a result, the optic nerve is partly responsible for our ability to see.

III. Oculomotor Nerve

The oculomotor nerve is the third cranial nerve (CN III) located in the midbrain.

It operates solely as a motor neuron and is responsible for eye movement and autonomic functions.

The autonomic functions involve pupil construction, eyelid elevation, and lens accommodation (shaping the eye and lens).

Simply put, the oculomotor nerve produces motor function to four of the six muscles around the eyes.

IV. Trochlear Nerve

The trochlear nerve is the fourth cranial nerve (CN IV) located in the midbrain.

This nerve also operates as a motor neuron (like the oculomotor nerve) and affects eye movement.

However, it manages the superior oblique muscle, responsible for downward, outward, and inward eye movements.

V. Trigeminal Nerve

The trigeminal nerve is the fifth cranial nerve (CN V), and it comes from the pons area of the brain.

This nerve contains both sensory and motor neurons.

Accordingly, it sends sensory signals to the brain and transmits motor functions from the brain.

The trigeminal nerve is divided into three parts known as the ophthalmic, maxillary, and mandibular divisions.

Firstly, the ophthalmic division relays sensory information from the upper area of your face.

It includes the forehead, scalp, and upper eyelids.

Secondly, the maxillary division transmits sensory information from the middle area of the face.

It includes the cheeks, upper lip, and nasal cavity.

Finally, the mandibular division contains sensory and motor functions.

It sends sensory data from the ears, lower lip, and chin.

Moreover, it regulates jaw and ear muscle movement.

Overall, the trigeminal nerve is responsible for facial expressions and sensations.

It also influences mastication (biting, chewing, and swallowing).

VI. Abducens Nerve

The abducens nerve is the sixth cranial nerve (CN VI) originating in the pontomedullary region.

It is also a motor neuron that influences eye movement.

However, it controls the lateral rectus muscle responsible for outward eye movement.

Its referred to as the abducens nerve because it affects eye abduction (lateral movement).

VII. Facial Nerve

The facial nerve is the seventh crinal nerve (CN VII) and resides in the pontomedullary region.

This nerve is a sensory and motor nerve.

It’s responsible for taste (ant 2/3), salvation, lacrimation, facial expressions, and eyelid movement.

Accordingly, it affects some jaw muscles, provides a sense of taste, and influences glands in the head/neck regions.

VIII. Vestibulocochlear Nerve

The vestibulocochlear nerve is the eighth cranial nerve (CN VIII) and is found in the pontomedullary region of the brain.

It is also referred to as the auditory nerve, as mentioned by the cochlear part of the name.

This nerve is a sensory neuron responsible for balance and hearing.

It’s broken down into two components known as the vestibular and cochlear parts.

The vestibular part influences balance and affects linear and rational head movements.

The second part (the cochlear portion) influences hearing.

Specific cells detect vibrations from sounds and transmit them as nerve impulses to the cochlear nerve.

IX. Glossopharyngeal Nerve

The glossopharyngeal nerve is the ninth cranial nerve (CN IX) originating from the medulla oblongata.

It’s a sensory and motor neuron accountable for numerous roles of the tongue and throat.

The sensory portion affects the tongue taste and sensation (post 1/3), pharynx sensation, and chemoreceptors.

Next, the motor nerve affects salvation, stimulates voluntary movement, and influences swallowing and speech.

X. Vagus Nerve

The vagus nerve is the tenth cranial nerve (CN X) originating from the medulla oblongata.

It also has the longest pathway of the various cranial nerves.

Primarily, the vagus nerve functions as a sensory and motor nerve.

The sensory part affects sensations of the ear canal, pharynx, larynx, (parts of the throat) thorax, and abdomen (chest and trunk).

It also affects the taste/sensation of the epiglottis.

Next, the motor functions affect sweating, speech, and coughing.

It also impacts autonomic functions related to the parasympathetic nervous system.

As a result, it influences many aspects of the body, including decreased heart rate, increased GI motility, and sweating.

XI. Accessory Nerve

The accessory nerve is the eleventh cranial nerve (CN XI) that originates from the medulla oblongata.

It is sometimes known as the spinal accessory nerve because it’s also in the spinal cord.

Fundamentally, the accessory nerve is a motor neuron.

It controls the muscles affecting head-turning and shoulder shrugging (i.e., rotation, flexing, and extension).

XII. Hypoglossal Nerve

The hypoglossal nerve is the twelfth cranial nerve (CN XII) originating in the medulla oblongata.

It is a motor neuron responsible for the tongue’s lower muscles that control movement.

Actually, it controls most of the tongue muscles necessary for movement.