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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

{Dirty} Mnemonics to Remember the 12 Cranial Nerves

The healthcare industry is full of mnemonics and abbreviations. If you're anything like me you probably have problems remembering all of these "helpful" mnemonics. I think it's harder sometimes to remember the "helpful" saying verses just learning the material to begin with.

However, the order of the 12 cranial nerves is a bit tough to remember. First, let's look at these 12 cranial nerves.

Cranial Nerves

  1. Olfactory: Sensory: Smell
  2. Optic: Sensory: Vision
  3. Oculomotor: Sensory: Pupil constriction to light. Motor: Elevation of eyelid, CN 3, 4, and 6 control eye movements.
  4. Trochlear: Motor: Moves eyes down.
  5. Trigeminal: Sensory: Corneal reflex, sensation of cheeks, lips, and chin. Motor: Masseter and oral muscles. (Masseter is my favorite muscle!! In case you wanted to know.)
  6. Abducens: Motor: Abducts the eye.
  7. Facial: Sensory: Taste of anterior 2/3 of tongue. Motor: Muscles around the eyes, forehead, and mouth.
  8. Acoustic: Sensory: Hearing and equilibrium.
  9. Glossopharyngeal: Sensory: Taste of posterior 1/3 of tongue. Motor: Control of swallowing.
  10. Vagus: Sensory: Pharynx and larynx. Motor: Pharynx and larynx, movement of the soft palate and uvula. CN 9, 10, and 11 used to speak clearly.
  11. Spinal Accessory: Motor: Trapezius and sternocleidomastoid.
  12. Hypoglossal: Motor: Tongue.
So that's a lot to keep straight, right? Right. Here's the saying that I learned:
"On Old Olympus Towering Tops, A Fin and German Viewed Some Hops."

Now that one can work. If it's easy for you to remember then go for it. For fun, here are some dirty versions:

"Oh, Oh, Oh, To Touch And Feel A Great Vagina. So Hot!"

"Oh, Oh, Oh, To Touch And feel A Guy's Vagina. So Homo." 

"Olive Oil Often Treats Testicles After Frisky Asians Give Very Aggressive Handjobs."

Now in that last mnemonic, you'll have to remember that the "A" in "Aggressive" is for the 11th cranial nerve, "Spinal Accessory". So the "A" comes from "Accessory." I don't know if that would confuse you, or not.

Function Mnemonics

If your teacher wants you to memorize which one uses Sensory, Motor, or Both as the function for each cranial nerve then you might find this mnemonic helpful:
"Some Say Marry Money, But My Brother Says Big Boobs Matter Most."

I like this in that you can easily see that it's: sensory, sensory, motor, motor, both, motor, both, sensory, both, both, motor, motor. My only discrepancy is that CN3 (Oculomotor) has both sensory and motor, not just motor alone. (Sensory: Pupil constriction to light. Motor: Elevation of upper eyelid.)

You can see how sometimes mnemonics make things easier, and sometimes there's too many exceptions to remember. It's up to you if you use these or not. I did need to use a mnemonic though to remember the order of the cranial nerves. Trying to remember the order of 12 nerves was too hard for me to do alone.

Here are some other articles that you might be interested in:

Increased Intracranial Pressure
Glasgow Coma Score
Complete Head to Toe Assessment

Do you find mnemonics to be helpful? What are some that you use? Do you have a different mnemonic that you use for the 12 cranial nerves? Leave a comment below!!




  1. I came up with the olive oil mnemonic years ago but used "virgins", for vestibulocochlear, instead of "Asians"

  2. I came up with the olive oil mnemonic years ago but used "virgins", for vestibulocochlear, instead of "Asians"

    1. Yup; that's the one I learned. Makes it easier