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Common cranial nerve examination questions for medical finals, OSCEs and MRCP PACES: olfactory nerve (I)

Click on the the questions below to see the answers, or click here for questions about other cranial nerves and click here to learn how to examine the cranial nerves.


Question 1: 

What are common causes of damage to the olfactory nerve?

  • Blocked nasal passages e.g. common cold/flu
  • Head trauma
    • Shearing of the olfactory bulbs as they pass through the holes of the cribriform plate
  • Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease
    • One of the earliest signs of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s can be a loss of smell. This is the reason why patients with dementia often prefer stronger/more pungent foods
  • Malignancy: especially if unilateral
    • Meningioma / glioma / basal skull tumour
  • Meningitis


Click here for OSCE and PACES questions on the optic nerve (II) and…

click here for OSCE and PACES questions on the glossopharyngeal (IX), vagus (X) and hypoglossal nerves (XII) or…

Click here for medical student finals, OSCE and MRCP PACES notes on the cranial nerve exam

How to perform the cranial nerve exam for  finals, OSCEs and PACES