Definition of Sixth cranial nerve

Sixth cranial nerve: The sixth cranial nerve is the abducent nerve, a small motor nerve that has one task: to supply a muscle called the lateral rectus muscle that moves the eye outward.

Paralysis of the abducent nerve may cause inward turning of the eye (esotropia) leading to double vision.

All 12 cranial nerves, the abducent nerve included, emerge from or enter the skull (the cranium), as opposed to the spinal nerves which emerge from the vertebral column.

The word "abducent" comes from the Latin "ab-", away from + "ducere", to draw = to draw away. The abducent (or abducens) operates the lateral rectus muscle that draws the eye toward the side of the head. The abducent nerve is also called the abducens nerve.


Last Editorial Review: 10/30/2013

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