Medical professionals check the neurological functions of patients by conducting a neuro exam that assesses their mental status, overall motor function, reflexes and sensory ability, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. The person performing the neuro check also asks the patient to perform various exercises to make sure that all 12 cranial nerves function properly.
To check mental status, medical professionals talk with patients to make sure they can follow a conversation and speak clearly, notes Johns Hopkins Medicine. They may also assess if the patient knows where he is, who he is, who else is in the room and the correct time period. A nurse or doctor also uses a reflex hammer to check for proper reflexes and a series of tools to make sure the patient can feel different sensations and temperatures. Health care providers may ask patients to stand or walk to assess their balance and push and pull against their hands to determine their overall motor function.
Health care providers perform a visual and eye exam to verify that the optic nerve, oculomotor, abducens nerve and trochlear nerve function properly, states Johns Hopkins Medicine. A smell test allows a medical professional to assess the olfactory nerve, while a taste test is part of the glossopharyngeal nerve assessment. To confirm a functioning accessory nerve, a patient shrugs or turns his head. The patient may have to move his tongue and mouth as directed to verify that his hypoglossal nerve, vagus nerve, facial nerve and trigeminal nerve all function properly. To assess the acoustic nerve, the medical professional may perform a hearing test.