Important Nerves in the Body and What They Do
There are over 7 trillion nerves in the human body. The nervous system is a very intricate grouping of nerves and cells (neurons) that sends messages throughout the body. The central nervous system is comprised of the brain and spinal cord. While all nerves are important, there are two sets of nerves that are the most important in the body: cranial and spinal.
There are 12 pairs of cranial nerves that reach from the inferior side of the brain. When looking at this chart, you will see that the nerves are acknowledged by a Roman numeral based on its position along the anterior-posterior axis of the brain. Here are the 12 cranial nerves and what they do:
- Olfactory – Contributes to sense of smell.
- Optic – Transforms visions from your eye to your brain.
- Oculomoter – Functions include operating eye muscles, superiorly uplifting eyelid and rotating eyeball.
- Trochlear – Handles the muscles of the eye and how the eye turns.
- Trigeminal – Performs sensory functions for the nose, eyes, tongue and teeth.
- Abducent – Makes the eye turn laterally.
- Facial – Controls different facial expressions, senses of the tongue and touches on the face.
- Vestibulocochlear – Helps you balance your head and delivers sounds and hearing to the brain.
- Glossopharyngeal – Sends information from the pharynx, tongue and palate about temperature and pressure. Also aids the swallowing function.
- Vagus – Contributes to the ability to taste and constricts the muscles of the pharynx, larynx, esophagus, trachea, bronchi and heart.
- Spinal Accessory Nerve – Muscle movement of the shoulders, neck, spinal cord and muscles.
- Hypoglossal – muscles of the tongue.
There are 31 pairs of spinal nerves that are for both sensory and motor signals. Spinal nerves are split into five groups: eight pairs of cervical nerves, 12 pairs of thoracic nerves, five pairs of lumbar nerves, five pairs of sacral nerves and one pair of coccygeal nerves. For a full list of the function of the spinal nerves, please refer to this chart:
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