Twelve pairs of special nerves called cranial nerves emerge from within the skull or cranium. Cranial Nerves II through XII arise from the diencephalon and the brainstem, as illustrated below. (Cranial Nerves I and II are actually fiber tracts emerging from the brain.) Some cranial nerves are limited to general motor or sensory functions, whereas others are specialized, producing smell, vision, or hearing (I, II, VIII).
Functions of the cranial nerves (CN) most relevant to physical examination are summarized on the next page.
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