Abducens nerve | Abducent nerve

Abducens nerve is sixth of the 12 paired cranial nerves (i.e. cranial nerve VI). It is a motor nerve that innervates a single muscle; the lateral rectus muscle of the eye.


The abducens nerve is also commonly known as the abducent nerve. The Latin name for cranial nerve VI is “nervus abducens”. Two different English translations of this term, i.e. abducens nerve and abducent nerve, are officially accepted, so both are correct.

The term “abducent” was predominant in older literature, however, in recent literature, the term “abducens” is more commonly used.


The abducens nerve arises from the anterior surface of the brainstem at the junction of pons and medulla oblongata. The origin lies medial to the origin of the facial nerve.

The nerve enters the subarachnoid space when it emerges from the brainstem. Early in its course, it runs upward between the pons and the clivus.

The nerve then bends forward to reach the eye. It pierces the dura mater to run between the dura and the skull through Dorello’s canal.

At the tip of the petrous part of temporal bone, the abducens nerve makes a sharp turn forward and enters the cavernous sinus. Here it runs along the internal carotid artery.

The nerve finally enters the orbit through the superior orbital fissure and ends by innervating the lateral rectus muscle.


As is clear from the discussion above, the abducens nerve supplies a single muscle; the lateral rectus muscle of the eye. Thus it has a role in the movements of the eyeball.