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Clin Anat. 2014 Jan;27(1):46-53. doi: 10.1002/ca.22130. Epub 2012 Jul 26.

The neglected cranial nerve: nervus terminalis (cranial nerve N).

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Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, Indiana University School of Medicine, Ft. Wayne, Indiana.


The nervus terminalis (NT; terminal nerve) was clearly identified as an additional cranial nerve in humans more than a century ago yet remains mostly undescribed in modern anatomy textbooks. The nerve is referred to as the nervus terminalis because in species initially examined its fibers were seen entering the brain in the region of the lamina terminalis. It has also been referred to as cranial nerve 0, but because there is no Roman symbol for zero, an N for the Latin word nulla is a better numerical designation. This nerve is very distinct in human fetuses and infants but also has been repeatedly identified in adult human brains. The NT fibers are unmyelinated and emanate from ganglia. The fibers pass through the cribriform plate medial to those of the olfactory nerve fila. The fibers end in the nasal mucosa and probably arise from autonomic/neuromodulatory as well as sensory neurons. The NT has been demonstrated to release luteinizing-releasing luteinizing hormone and is therefore thought to play a role in reproductive behavior. Based on the available evidence, the NT appears to be functional in adult humans and should be taught in medical schools and incorporated into anatomy/neuroanatomy textbooks.


cranial nerve 0; olfactory nerve; pheromones; reproductive behavior; terminal nerve

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