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What is the facial nerve?


The facial nerve resembles a telephone cable and contains 7,000 individual nerve fibers. Each fiber carries electrical impulses to a specific facial muscle. Information passing along the fibers of this nerve allows us to laugh, cry, smile, or frown, hence the name, “the nerve of facial expression”. When half or more of these individual nerve fibers are interrupted, facial weakness occurs. If these nerve fibers are irritated, then movements of the facial muscles appear as spasms or twitching. The facial nerve not only carries nerve impulses to the muscles of the face, but also to the tear glands, to the saliva glands, and to the muscle of the stirrup bone in the middle ear (the stapes). It also transmits taste from the front of the tongue. Since the function of the facial nerve is so complex, many symptoms may occur when the fibers of the facial nerve are disrupted. A disorder of the facial nerve may result in twitching, weakness, or paralysis of the face, in dryness of the eye or the mouth, or in disturbance of taste.