The nucleus of the facial nerve is located in the brainstem between the pons and medulla. It is named the facial nerve because of its motor and sensory functions in the face. The nerve passes through the internal auditory meatus and then the parotid gland in the face. It can be damaged during surgery for head and neck cancers.
CN VII provides parasympathetic innervation to the lacrimal gland which secretes tears.
The chorda tympani branch of CN VII provides parasympathetic innervation to the submandibular and sublingual glands which are responsible for salivation.
Along with CN IX, CN VII is most responsible sensing taste.
The chorda tympani branch of CN VII is responsible for taste sensation for the anterior 2/3 of the tongue via the fungiform and foliate papillae.
CN VII is responsible for various motor functions of the face.
When testing for CN VII damage, facial movement is assessed by asking the patient to smile (and show teeth), frown, puff out his/her cheeks against the examiner’s pressure. Bell’s palsy is an idiopathic facial nerve paralysis which manifests as ipsilateral facial paralysis and inability to close the ipsilateral eye.
CN VII innervates the stapedius muscle in the middle ear which stabilizes the stapes and prevents sounds from being too loud.
When testing for CN VII damage the patient is asked to close his/her eyes as the examiner exerts opposing pressure to open them. Note: CN III is responsible for eyelid opening.
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