What is the Facial Nerve ?
The facial nerve is the seventh cranial nerve and carries the nerve fibers that control facial movement and expression. The facial nerve also carries the nerves involved in taste to the anterior 2/3 of the tongue and produces tears (the lacrimal gland). It has small branches involved in dampening our sensitivity to volume of noise (the stapedius muscle) and many other muscles not involved in routine facial expressions.
The cells that transmit information within the facial nerve originate at the base of the brain, or brainstem, in an area called the pons. So the nerve must travel through the base of the skull in order to reach the face. Along this route, the facial nerve travels in close proximity to the eighth cranial nerve, the vestibulocochlear nerve, which is responsible for hearing and balance. The facial nerve exits the base of the skull at the stylomastoid foramina, an opening in the bone located near the base of the ear.
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