The optic nerve connects the eye to the brain. The optic nerve carries the impulses formed by the retina. The retina is the nerve layer that lines the back of the eye that senses light and creates impulses. These impulses are dispatched through the optic nerve to the brain, which interprets them as images. Using an ophthalmoscope, the head of the optic nerve can be easily seen. It can be viewed as the only visible part of the brain (or extension of it).

The optic nerve is the second cranial nerve. The cranial nerve emerge from or enter the skull (the cranium), as opposed to the spinal nerves which emerge from the vertebral column. There are twelve cranial nerves.

In terms of its embryonic development, the optic nerve is a part of the central nervous system (CNS) rather than a peripheral nerve.

The word "optic" comes from the Greek "optikos", pertaining to sight.

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