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Optic Nerve

The optic nerve, also known as cranial nerve 2, consists mainly of fibers derived from the ganglionic cells of the retina, a diverticulum located in the diencephalon. It transmits visual information from the retina to the brain. Anatomy The optic nerve is the second of twelve paired cranial nerves but is considered to be part of the central nervous system, as it is derived from an outpouching of the diencephalon during embryonic development. As a consequence, the fibers are covered with myelin produced by oligodendrocytes, rather than Schwann cells, which are found in the peripheral nervous system, and are encased within the meninges. Peripheral neuropathies like Guillain-Barré syndrome do not affect the optic nerve. The optic nerve is ensheathed in all three meningeal layers (dura, arachnoid, and pia mater) rather than the epineurium, perineurium, and endoneurium found in peripheral nerves. Fiber tracks of the mammalian central nervous system (as opposed to the peripheral nervous system) are incapable of regeneration, and, hence, optic nerve damage produces irreversible blindness. The fibres from the retina run along the optic nerve to nine primary visual nuclei in the brain, from which a major relay inputs into the primary visual cortex. The optic nerve is composed of retinal ganglion cell axons and support cells. It leaves the orbit (eye socket) via the optic canal, running postero-medially towards the optic chiasm, where there is a partial decussation (crossing) of fibres from the temporal visual fields (the nasal hemi-retina) of both eyes. The proportion of decussating fibers varies between species, and is correlated with the degree of binocular vision enjoyed by a species. Most of the axons of the optic nerve terminate in the lateral geniculate nucleus from where information is relayed to the visual cortex, while other axons terminate in the pretectal nucleus and are involved in reflexive eye movements. Other axons terminate in the suprachiasmatic nucleus and are involved in regulating the sleep-wake cycle. Its diameter increases from about 1.6 mm within the eye to 3.5 mm in the orbit to 4.5 mm within the cranial space. The optic nerve component lengths are 1 mm in the globe, 24 mm in the orbit, 9 mm in the optic canal, and 16 mm in the cranial space before joining the optic chiasm. There, partial decussation occurs, and about 53% of the fibers cross to form the optic tracts. Most of these fibres terminate in the lateral geniculate body. From the lateral geniculate body, fibers of the optic radiation pass to the visual cortex in the occipital lobe of the brain. In more specific terms, fibers carrying information from the contralateral superior visual field traverse Meyer's loop to terminate in the lingual gyrus below the calcarine fissure in the occipital lobe, and fibers carrying information from the contralateral inferior visual field terminate more superiorly, to the cuneus.