Anatomy of the vestibulocochlear nerve (CN VIII)

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Do you know that feeling when you listen to your favorite song and you start dancing along? Well, you can thank the eighth cranial nerve for that! CN eight, or the vestibulocochlear nerve, transmits special sensory information, related to balance and hearing, from the inner ear to the brain.

The vestibulocochlear nerve emerges laterally at the cerebellopontine angle, which is the junction between the pons, medulla and cerebellum. Once it emerges from the cerebellopontine angle, it enters the internal acoustic meatus where it separates into its two branches: the cochlear nerve and the vestibular nerve. The cochlear nerve carries information about hearing, and the vestibular nerve carries information about movements of the head which aids in balance.

Now, let’s look at the pathway of sensory information, starting with the auditory pathway. This begins in the cochlea, which is a bony tube that spirals on itself, resembling the shape of a snail shell.

If we uncoil this structure and look within it in cross-section, there are three fluid-filled cavities called the scala vestibuli, the cochlear duct, and the scala tympani. The scala vestibuli is connected to the middle ear through the oval window, and contains perilymph. The cochlear duct is filled with endolymph, and houses the organ of Corti, which is our organ of hearing and contains our hearing receptors, or hair cells. Finally, the scala tympani is connected to the middle ear through the round window, and it also contains perilymph.


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