Cranial Nerve VIII

The eighth cranial nerve is known as the vestibuloco-chlear nerve because it is made up of two special sensory components called the vestibular division and the auditory division. Correspondingly, this nerve has a dual role: it participates in the vestibular or balance system and also in the sense of audition or hearing. Each division makes use of mechanoreception; cells of the vestibular division are sensitive to positional movements of the head, and those of the cochlear division are sensitive to sound stimuli. The receptors for both divisions are found in the inner ear, well-protected deep within the temporal bone of the skull. By means of complex processes of tranduction, mechanical and auditory stimuli are sent to vestibular and cochlear nuclei, respectively, in the lower pons. From these sites, vestibular input is extensively processed in the brain stem and cerebellum, whereas auditory input is sent rostrally up the brain stem to the medial geniculate nucleus of the thalamus and finally to the primary auditory cortices in the temporal lobes (Heschl's gyri). One of the central functions of hearing in humans is that it serves as a necessary precursor to language.

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