Nothosaurs form a subclade of the secondarily marine Sauropterygia that was well represented in late Early to early Late Triassic marine ecosystems. Here we present and discuss the internal skull anatomy of the small piscivorous nothosaur Nothosaurus marchicus from coastal to shallow marine Lower Muschelkalk deposits (Anisian) of Winterswijk, The Netherlands, which represents the oldest sauropterygian endocast visualized to date. The cranial endocast is only partially encapsulated by ossified braincase elements. Cranial flattening and lateral constriction by hypertrophied temporal musculature grant the brain a straight, tubular geometry that lacks particularly well-developed cerebral lobes but does potentially involve distinguishable optic lobes, suggesting vision may have represented an important sense during life. Despite large orbit size, the circuitous muscular pathway linking the basisphenoidal and orbital regions indicates poor oculomotor performance. This suggests a rather fixed ocular orientation, although eye placement and neck manoeuvrability could have enabled binocular if not stereoscopic vision. The proportionally large dorsal projection of the braincase endocast towards the well-developed pineal foramen advocates substantial dependence on the corresponding pineal system in vivo. Structures corroborating keen olfactory or acoustic senses were not identified. The likely atrophied vomeronasal organ argues against the presence of a forked tongue in Nothosaurus, and the relative positioning of external and internal nares contrasts respiratory configurations proposed for pistosauroid sauropterygians. The antorbital domain furthermore accommodates a putative rostral sensory plexus and pronounced lateral nasal glands that were likely exapted as salt glands. Previously proposed nothosaurian ‘foramina eustachii’ arose from architectural constraints on braincase development rather than representing functional foramina. Several modifications to brain shape and accessory organs were achieved through heterochronic development of the cranium, particularly the braincase. In summary, the cranium of Nothosaurus marchicus reflects important physiological and neurosensory adaptations that enabled the group’s explosive invasion of shallow marine habitats in the late Early Triassic.