Anatomy of the cranial nerves


Antoine Micheau - MD , Denis Hoa - MD

Published on

Thursday 05 December 2019


Head and Neck

Anatomical parts

Anatomy of the cranial nerves

This human anatomy module is about the cranial nerves. It consists of 15 vector anatomical drawings with 280 anatomical structures labeled. 

It is intended for the use of medical students working on human anatomy, student nurses, physiotherapists, electro-radiological technicians and residents – especially those working in neurology, neurosurgery, otolaryngology – and for any physician needing quick and easy access to anatomical illustrations of the twelve cranial nerves.


Cranial nerves - Anatomy (Brainstem) : Abducent nerve; Abducens nerve [VI], Accessory nerve [XI], Facial nerve [VII], Mandibular nerve; Mandibular division [Vc; V3], Maxillary nerve; Maxillary division [Vb; V2], Oculomotor nerve [III], Olfactory nerve [I], Ophthalmic nerve; Ophthalmic division [Va; V1], Optic nerve [II], Terminal nerve [0], Trigeminal nerve [V], Trochlear nerve [IV], Vagus nerve [X], Vestibulocochlear nerve [VIII], Glossopharyngeal nerve [IX], Hypoglossal nerve [XII]

Cranial nerves , Anatomy : Brainstem (Anterior view)


Diagrams of cranial nerves

These original anatomical drawings were produced digitally, working from medical imaging sources and 3D reconstructions using Adobe Illustrator.
They were then included in anatomical modules and labelled using Adobe Animate.

  • The first two illustrations concern the cranial nerves at their emergence from the brain stem and their passage through the various foramina of the cranial base


Cranial nerves - Cranial base : Foramina : Cribriform plate, Optic canal, Superior orbital fissure, Foramen rotundum, Foramen ovale, Internal acoustic meatus, Jugular foramen, Hypoglossal canal

Cranial nerves , Cranial base : Foramina


  • The olfactory nerves (I) are represented together with adjoining brain structures involved in olfaction (olfactory bulb and tract, olfactory tubercle, olfactory stria...)


Olfactory nerve [I] - Anatomy (Anatomical illustrations) : Olfactory nerves, Olfactory bulb, Subcallosal area; Subcallosal gyrus, Paraolfactory sulci, Paraolfactory area, Paraterminal gyrus, Olfactory tract, Medial stria, Olfactory trigone,  Olfactory tubercle ,Lateral stria

Olfactory nerve [I] : Anatomy (Anatomical illustrations)


  • The optic nerve (II) is represented in a diagram that brings together the optic pathways and different levels of possible lesions (hemianopia, quadrantanopia, monocular blindness)


Optic nerve [II] - Schematic Human anatomy : Retina, Optic chiasma,  Optic tract, Lateral geniculate body, Optic radiation, Visual cortex, [UMLS:C0271202], [UMLS:C0271208], [UMLS:C0544680], [UMLS:C0750958], [UMLS:C0155320]

Optic nerve [II] : Schematic


  • The oculomotor nerves (oculomotor nerve (III), trochlear (IV) and abducens (VI)) are represented on the same diagram, from their emergence from the brainstem through the cavernous sinus and superior orbital fissure, to their innervation of the orbital cavity and its contents (extra-ocular muscles, ciliary ganglion...).


Oculomotor nerve [III] - Trochlear nerve [IV] - Abducent nerve; Abducens nerve [VI] : Anatomy atlas : Superior branch,  Inferior branch,  Branch to ciliary ganglion; Parasympathetic root of ciliary ganglion; Oculomotor root of ciliary ganglion,  Parasympathetic root of ciliary ganglion; Oculomotor root of ciliary ganglion; Branch of oculomotor nerve to ciliary ganglion, Ciliary ganglion, Obliquus capitis superior, Lateral rectus

Oculomotor nerve [III] , Trochlear nerve [IV] , Abducent nerve; Abducens nerve [VI] : Anatomy atlas


  • The dermatomes of the trigeminal nerve (V) are represented on a diagram of the face
  • The branches of the trigeminal nerve (V) are represented in three different diagrams
    • The ophthalmic nerve (V1) in the orbital cavity with its main branches (frontal nerve, lacrimal nerve, anterior and posterior ethmoidal nerve, nasociliary nerve, branch communicating with the ciliary ganglion, supraorbital nerve, supratrochlear nerve, infra-trochlear nerve, long ciliary nerves)
    • The maxillary nerve (V2) from the trigeminal ganglion (Gasser's ganglion) with its various branches destined for the face
    • The mandibular nerve (V3) with its branches destined for the face and jaw as well as its connections with the facial nerve via the chorda tympani.



Trigeminal nerve [V] (Ophthalmic nerve; Ophthalmic division [Va; V1] - Maxillary nerve; Maxillary division [Vb; V2] - Mandibular nerve; Mandibular division [Vc; V3]) (Illustrations: A. Micheau - MD) : Dermatomes, Chorda tympani, Trigeminal ganglion, Inferior alveolar nerve, Auriculotemporal nerve, Buccal nerve, Nerve to lateral pterygoid, Nerve to medial pterygoid, Nerve to tensor tympani, Nerve to tensor veli palatini, Anterior ethmoidal nerve, Posterior ethmoidal nerve, Frontal nerve, Greater palatine nerve, Infraorbital nerve, Infratrochlear nerve, Lacrimal nerve, Lingual nerve, Masseteric nerve, Mental nerve, Nerve to mylohyoid, Nasociliary nerve, Nasopalatine nerve, Pharyngeal nerve, Nerve to external acoustic meatus, Sublingual nerve, Supraorbital nerve, Supratrochlear nerve, Zygomatic nerve, Superior alveolar nerves, Anterior auricular nerves, Long ciliary nerves, Lesser palatine nerves, Deep temporal nerves

Trigeminal nerve [V] (Ophthalmic nerve; Ophthalmic division [Va; V1] , Maxillary nerve; Maxillary division [Vb; V2] , Mandibular nerve; Mandibular division [Vc; V3]) : Illustrations: A. Micheau - MD


  • The pattern of the facial nerve (VII) is divided into two parts, one intrapetrous part with the geniculate ganglion, the greater petrosal nerve and chorda tympani, the other part consisting of the facial area after emergence from the stylomastoid foramen.


Facial nerve [VII] - Anatomy : Medical illustrations (Imaios - E-anatomy) :Geniculum, Nerve to stapedius, Posterior auricular nerve, Occipital branch, Auricular branch, Digastric branch, Stylohyoid branch, Communicating branch with glossopharyngeal nerve, Parotid plexus, Temporal branches, Zygomatic branches, Buccal branches, Lingual branch of facial nerve, Marginal mandibular branch, Cervical branch, Intermediate nerve, Geniculate ganglion, Greater petrosal nerve, Parasympathetic root of pterygopalatine ganglion; Greater petrosal nerve, Chorda tympani, Parasympathetic root of submandibular ganglion; Chorda tympani, Communicating branch with tympanic plexus, Communicating branch with vagus nerve

Facial nerve [VII] , Anatomy : Medical illustrations (Imaios - E-anatomy)


  • The vestibulocochlear nerve (auditory vestibular nerve) (VIII) passes in the internal auditory meatus to innervate structures in the inner ear (cochlear nerve: cochlear, vestibular nerve: utricle, saccule, semicircular canals)


Human anatomy - Vestibulocochlear nerve [VIII] : Vestibular nerve, Vestibular ganglion, Cochlear communicating branch, Superior part of vestibular nerve, Utriculoampullary nerve, Utricular nerve, Anterior ampullary nerve, Lateral ampullary nerve, Inferior part of vestibular nerve, Posterior ampullary nerve, Saccular nerve, Cochlear nerve, Cochlear ganglion; Spiral ganglion

Human anatomy : Vestibulocochlear nerve [VIII]


  • The glossopharyngeal nerve (IX) is schematized by means of a sagittal section of the pharynx and oral cavity, with its pharyngeal, tonsillar and lingual branches and for the carotid sinus.


Cranial nerves : Glossopharyngeal nerve [IX] - Diagram : Superior ganglion, Inferior ganglion, Tympanic nerve, Tympanic enlargement; Tympanic ganglion, Tympanic plexus, Tubal branch, Caroticotympanic nerves, Communicating branch with auricular branch of vagus nerve, Communicating branch of vagus with glossopharyngeal nerve, Pharyngeal branches, Stylopharyngeal branch, Carotid branch, Tonsillar branches, Lingual branches, Lesser petrosal nerve; Parasympathetic root of otic ganglion, Parasympathetic root of otic ganglion; Lesser petrosal nerve, Communicating branch with meningeal branch, Communicating branch with auriculotemporal nerve, Communicating branch with chorda tympani

Cranial nerves : Glossopharyngeal nerve [IX] , Diagram


  • A diagram of the vagus nerve (X) with all its branches for the vessels, the chest and the abdomino-pelvic viscera.


Vagus nerve [X] -  Anatomy - Human body : Superior ganglion, Meningeal branch, Auricular branch, Inferior ganglion, Pharyngeal branch, Pharyngeal plexus, Superior laryngeal nerve, External branch, Internal branch, Communicating branch with recurrent laryngeal nerve, Superior cervical cardiac branches, Inferior cervical cardiac branches, Recurrent laryngeal nerve, Right recurrent laryngeal nerve, Left recurrent laryngeal nerve, Tracheal branches, Oesophageal branches, Pharyngeal branches, Thoracic cardiac branches, Bronchial branches, Pulmonary plexus, Oesophageal plexus, Anterior vagal trunk, Anterior gastric branches, Anterior nerve of lesser curvature, Hepatic branches, Pyloric branch, Posterior vagal trunk, Posterior gastric branches, Posterior nerve of lesser curvature, Coeliac branches, Renal branches

Vagus nerve [X] : Anatomy , Human body


  • The accessory nerve (XI) innervates the trapezius and sternocleidomastoid muscles after anastomoses with the vagus nerve and cervical plexus.


Accessory nerve [XI] - Human anatomy (Drawings : Imaios/E-anatomy) : Cranial root; Vagal part,  Spinal root; Spinal part,  Trunk of accessory nerve,  Internal branch,  External branch,  Muscular branches

Accessory nerve [XI] , Human anatomy (Drawings : Imaios/E-anatomy)


  • Finally, the hypoglossal nerve (XII) principally innervates the tongue after anastomosis with the cervical plexus and the ansa cervicalis.


Hypoglossal nerve [XII] - Illustrations : Tongue, Lingual branches

Hypoglossal nerve [XII] : Illustrations



Using this atlas of human anatomy

The illustrations are labeled in three categories: cranial nerves, foramina and organs
The user views the anatomical drawings by using the "illustrations" menu where each item corresponds to a cranial nerve.

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