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Welcome to 2 minute neuroscience, where I explain neuroscience topics in 2 minutes or
less.
In this installment I will discuss the vestibulocochlear nerve.
The vestibulocochlear nerve consists of a vestibular and cochlear component, which have
the functions of carrying information to the brain from the vestibular system and the cochlea,
respectively.
The information from the cochlea deals with hearing, while the information from the vestibular
system deals with vestibular sensations, which include information about head position and
movement.
This vestibular information enables us to keep our balance, stabilize our head and body
during movement, and maintain posture.
The cochlear component of cranial nerve eight begins with neurons that make connections
with hair cells, the sensory receptor cells of the auditory system.
When hair cells are activated, they relay auditory signals to the the cochlear portion
of the nerve through changes in levels of neurotransmitter release.
The cochlear nerve travels from the cochlea to the dorsal and ventral cochlear nuclei,
which are found at the junction between the pons and medulla.
From there, the auditory information is sent to areas in the brainstem and cortex that
are involved with auditory processing.
The vestibular component of the nerve also receives stimulation from hair cells, but
these cells are found in the vestibular apparatus.
From there, the nerve travels to the vestibular nuclei in the pons and medulla.
The vestibular nuclei consist of four subnuclei: the inferior, medial, lateral, and superior
vestibular nuclei.
Neurons leave each of these nuclei to project to various areas in the brain, brainstem,
and spinal cord to coordinate head, eye, and body movements to maintain balance and equilibrium,
along with other related functions.
Damage to the vestibulocochlear nerve can cause disruption of hearing and/or vestibular
functions, generating symptoms like hearing loss, tinnitus, dizziness, loss of balance,
and nausea.