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Cranial Nerve Functions

by Greg Crowther


The cranial nerves connect to the brain directly, rather than via the spinal cord. There are many mnemonics for learning the cranial nerves' names (e.g., "Oh Oh Oh To Touch And Feel Very Good Velvet -- Ah, Heaven!") and classification as sensory, motor, or both (e.g., "Some Say Money Matters, But My Brother Says Big Brains Matter More"). This song -- originally written for Biology 241 at South Seattle College and UW-Bothell -- complements those mnemonics by adding the additional layer of the function of these cranial nerves. Each nerve is represented as a pitch along a 12-pitch range, with 12 being the highest. Note that functions are similar for nerves VI, IV, and III, so these nerves are grouped together in the song. Also, the functions of nerves II and I come at the end, sort of as an afterthought, because those functions are easy to guess from the names of the nerves (II = optic; I = olfactory).


Twelve; Eleven; Ten; Nine;
Eight; Five; Seven; Six/Four/Three.

Moving your tongue; your back and your neck;
Parasympathetic stuff; saliva and taste.
Balance and hearing; facial senses and chewing;
Adjusting your face; and steering your gaze.

The rest you know well:
There's vision and smell.

Other Files


MP3 (by Do Peterson)

music video

sheet music (with melody play-back)

Lesson Plan

While this song is not easy for most students to sing, it lends itself to kinesthetic movements corresponding to the functions of each cranial nerve. When the singer sings "twelve" the students can wiggle their tongue; the singer sings "eleven" the students can point to their back and their neck, and so forth.

Study Questions

(1) In what order, if any, are the cranial nerves covered in this song?

(2) According to the song, what is the FUNCTION of each cranial nerve?

(3) Which cranial nerves carry sensory or motor information to or from the eyes?

(4) Which cranial nerves convey gustatory (taste) information?

(5) The root "gloss" means "tongue." What are the numbers of the cranial nerves named for the tongue?

(6) "Parasympathetic stuff" is an awfully broad description of the function of nerve X. Please provide some examples of parasympathetic functions.

(7) Considering the specific content covered by this song, is there anything important that is missing, unclear, or misleading? If so, what?

(Answers may be found on the answers page.)