Cranial Nerves.

There are twelve cranial nerves (aka nerves in the head). Each has nerve has a specific role and its function can easily be tested. Below is a summary of each Cranial Nerve (#) - what it does - how to test function.

#1 – smell – test sense of smell (using an essential oil or rubbing alcohol).

#2 – visual acuity and fields – test visual acuity (Snellen eye chart) and look into eye using opthalmoscope.

#3 – pupillar (pupil) reactions – inspect size, shape, and functioning of pupils.

#4 (along with 3 and 6) – extraoccular (eye) muscle movements – test eye muscle movements

#5 – corneal reflexes, facial sensation, jaw movements – palpate temporal (temples) and masseter (cheek) muscles with teeth clenched, examine jaw movements, look for normal eye blinking, and test for face pain perception.

#7 – facial movements – note symmetry of the face, ask patient to
raise eyebrows, frown, close eyes tightly, show upper and lower teeth, puff out cheeks, and smile (testing face muscles).

#8 – hearing – whisper near patient to test their hearing.

#9 (and 10) – swallowing and gagging – say "ah" to see soft palate rise, move the tongue, and test gag reflex.

#11 – shoulder and neck movements – shrug shoulders and turn head to each side against resistance.

#12 – tongue – inspect the tongue and ask patient to say "light, tight, dynamite" to test tongue movements.

Image source here.


  1. As I was reading this I started doing some of the movements the test say to do like frowning, smiling and shrugging the shoulders. Dinkum from across the room found it odd that I started smiling, frownin etc 'randomly',lol.

  2. Yep, they are simple tests, but you may look odd doing them on yourself :P

    Did all your tests turn out positive?


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