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The Facial Nerve:

Functional Components and


Anatomy

Brief overview of cranial nerve functional components

The 12 cranial nerves participate in a total of seven neural functions. Each of


these seven functions is designated by a three letter acronym.
The first letter is either G (General) or S (Special).
General refers to primitive and/or external structures of the body.
Special refers to senses unique to the head (taste, olfaction, hearing, vision, and
balance) and to muscles of branchial arch derivatives.

The second letter is either S (Somatic) or V (Visceral).


Somatic refers to non-visceral structures including skin, muscles, tendons, joints,
retina (vision), basilar membrane (hearing), and utricle/saccula (balance).
Visceral refers to organs of the body cavity, smooth muscle, vessels, and glands.

The third letter is either A (Afferent) or E (Efferent).


Afferent refers to flow of neural information toward the brain (sensation)
Efferent refers to flow of neural information toward the periphery (motor).

Knowledge of the functional components and the deficits that follow damage to
each provides the basis of the thorough neurological exam.

The Seven Functional Components

GSA General Somatic Afferent


Touch, temperature, and pain from non-visceral structures

GSE General Somatic Efferent


Motor to skeletal muscle

GVA General Visceral Afferent


Touch (distention), temperature, and pain from the viscera

GVE General Visceral Efferent


Motor to viscera, smooth muscle, and glands

SSA Special Somatic Afferent


Vision, hearing, and balance

SSE Doesnt exist


SVA Special Visceral Afferent
Taste and olfaction
SVE Special Visceral Efferent
Motor to muscles derived from the branchial arches

The remainder of this tutorial focuses on the


functional nerve components contained within the
facial nerve:
SVE
GVA
SVA
GVE
GSA
These components, either alone or in combination, make up the
facial nerve and its branches. An understanding of these
components can serve as a template for understanding the other
functional components. In addition, an understanding of the facial
nerve and its components can be applied in clinical situations to
help localize a patients defect.

Functional Components Within Branches of the


Facial Nerve:
Greater Superficial Petrosal Nerve (GSPN)
GVA, GVE, SVA

Stapedial Nerve
SVE

Chorda Tympani Nerve


GVE, SVA

Posterior Auricular Nerve


SVE, GSA

Facial Nerve (terminal branch)


SVE

Anatomy of Facial Nerve Branches

The facial nerve exits the posterior cranial fossa (PCF) at the internal
acoustic meatus.
Within the internal acoustic meatus the facial nerve enters the facial
canal.
The first branch of the facial nerve, the greater superficial petrosal nerve
(GSPN) branches from the geniculate ganglion within the genu of the
facial canal and enters the middle cranial fossa by way of the hiatus of
the canal for the GSPN.
The second branch of the facial nerve, the stapedial nerve, branches
from the descending portion of the facial nerve and enters the middle
ear.
The third branch of the facial nerve, the chorda tympani nerve, branches
from the descending portion of the facial nerve and enters the middle
ear. Within the middle ear the chorda tympani nerve crosses the medial
surface of the tympanic membrane. It then passes through the
petrotympanic fissure to enter the infratemporal fossa.
The descending portion of the facial nerve continues into the parotid
region by way of the stylomastoid foramen.

Overview of Facial
Nerve anatomy in
the skull

Posterior
Cranial
Fossa (PCF)

Hiatus of canal of greater


superficial petrosal nerve

Internal
Acoustic
Meatus

Inferior Orbital Fissure


Lacerate foramen

Greater
superficial
Petrosal
nerve
(GSPN)

Facial
canal

Pterygoid
canal

Greater and
lesser palatine
canals

Petrotympanic
fissure

Facial nerve

Stylomastoid
Foramen

Chorda tympani nerve

Facial nerve
Posterior
auricular N.

The facial nerve exits the posterior cranial fossa (PCF) at the internal acoustic
meatus.

Click here to start Animation

Overview of Facial
Nerve anatomy in
the skull

Posterior
Cranial
Fossa

Hiatus of canal of greater


superficial petrosal nerve

Internal
Acoustic
Meatus

Inferior Orbital Fissure


Lacerate foramen

Pterygoid
canal

Greater
superficial
Petrosal
nerve
(GSPN)

Facial
canal

Petrotympanic
fissure

Facial nerve

Stylomastoid
Foramen

Chorda tympani

Facial nerve
Posterior
auricular N.

Within the internal acoustic meatus the facial nerve enters the facial canal.

Click here to start Animation

Greater and
lesser palatine
canals

Overview of Facial
Nerve anatomy in
the skull

Inferior Orbital Fissure


Hiatus of canal of greater
superficial petrosal nerve

Lacerate foramen

Geniculate ganglion

MCF

Posterior
Cranial
Fossa

Internal
Acoustic
Meatus

Pterygoid
canal

Greater
superficial
Petrosal
nerve
(GSPN)

Facial
canal

Greater and
lesser palatine
canals

Petrotympanic
fissure

Facial nerve

Stylomastoid
Foramen

Chorda tympani

Facial nerve

The first branch of the facial nerve, the greater superficial petrosal nerve (GSPN) branches
from the geniculate ganglion within the genu of the facial canal and enters
the middle cranial fossa (MCF) by way of the hiatus of the canal for the GSPN.

Click here to start Animation

Overview of Facial
Nerve anatomy in
the skull

Posterior
Cranial
Fossa

Hiatus of canal of greater


superficial petrosal nerve

Internal
Acoustic
Meatus

Inferior Orbital Fissure


Lacerate foramen

Pterygoid
canal

Greater
superficial
Petrosal
nerve
(GSPN)

Facial
canal

Stapedial N.

Greater and
lesser palatine
canals
Petrotympanic
fissure

Facial nerve

Stylomastoid
Foramen

Chorda tympani

Facial nerve
Posterior
auricular N.

The second branch of the facial nerve, the stapedial nerve, branches from the
descending portion of the facial nerve and enters the middle ear.

Click here to start Animation

Overview of Facial
Nerve anatomy in
the skull

Posterior
Cranial
Fossa

Hiatus of canal of greater


superficial petrosal nerve

Internal
Acoustic
Meatus

Inferior Orbital Fissure


Lacerate foramen

Greater
superficial
Petrosal
nerve
(GSPN)

Facial
canal

Pterygoid
canal

Greater and
lesser palatine
canals

Petrotympanic
fissure

Facial nerve
Chorda tympani N.

Stylomastoid
Foramen

Infratemporal
fossa

Facial nerve

The third branch of the facial nerve, the chorda tympani nerve, branches from the
descending portion of the facial nerve and enters the middle ear. Within the middle ear
the chorda tympani nerve crosses the medial surface of the tympanic membrane. It then
passes through the petrotympanic fissure to enter the infratemporal fossa.

Click here to start Animation

Overview of Facial
Nerve anatomy in
the skull

Posterior
Cranial
Fossa

Hiatus of canal of greater


superficial petrosal nerve

Internal
Acoustic
Meatus

Inferior Orbital Fissure


Lacerate foramen

Pterygoid
canal

Greater
superficial
Petrosal
nerve
(GSPN)

Facial
canal

Petrotympanic
fissure

Facial nerve

Stylomastoid
Foramen
Facial nerve
Posterior
auricular N.

Chorda tympani

Parotid
region

The descending portion of the facial nerve exits the facial canal at the
stylomastoid foramen and continues into the parotid region

Click here to start Animation

Greater and
lesser palatine
canals

Functional components of the


Facial Nerve (CN VII)
1.

2.
3.
4.

5.

SVE (Special Visceral Efferent) Motor to


striated muscles derived from the 2nd branchial
arch.
GVA (General Visceral Afferent) Sensory from
visceral touch, temperature, and pain.
SVA (Special Visceral Afferent) Taste
GVE (General Visceral Efferent) Autonomic
innervation to mucosal, lacrimal, and salivary
glands.
GSA (General Somatic Afferent) Sensory
from somatic touch, temperature, and pain.
Click on numbers for functional components

SVE Component of the


Facial Nerve
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.

The next 11 slides demonstrate innervation to


muscles derived from the 2nd branchial arch:
Stapedius muscle -- dampens movement of the
ossicles (inserts on stapes of middle ear)
Posterior auricular muscle -- posterior movement
of pinna
Stylohyoid muscle -- elevates hyoid bone
Posterior belly of digastric -- elevates hyoid
bone, depresses mandible
Muscles of facial expression -- blinking, smiling,
frowning, facial movements
Click here to start Animation of SVE component

1. The Stapedius muscle dampens movement of the ossicles

SVE

\
Stapedius muscle dampens movement of the
ossicles protecting the inner ear from
damage from loud noises

Click here to start Animation

2. The Posterior Auricular nerve innervates the posterior


auricular muscle, pulling the pinna posteriorly.

SVE

Posterior auricular
muscle pulls the
pinna posteriorly

SVE
component of
posterior
auricular nerve

Click here to start Animation

3. The Stylohyoid muscle elevates the hyoid bone


SVE
Through the internal
Acoustic meatus

Stylohyoid
muscle elevates
the hyoid bone.

Through the
stylomastoid
foramen

Stylohyoid branch of
facial nerve
innervates stylohyoid
muscle

Click here to start Animation

4. The Posterior belly of digastric muscle elevates the hyoid bone

SVE
Through the internal
acoustic meatus

Posterior belly of
digastric muscle
elevates the
hyoid bone

Through the
stylomastoid
foramen
Posterior belly of
digastric branch of
facial nerve
innervates posterior
belly of digastric
muscle.

Click here to start Animation

5. The next six slides demonstrate SVE innervation to


the muscles of facial expression*

SVE

A.

Temporal branch (with zygomatic


branch) innervates orbicularis oculi-closes eyelids

B.

Zygomatic branch (with buccal branch)


innervates zygomaticus major--smiling

C.

Buccal branch innervates


buccinator--tenses cheek

D.

Mandibular branch innervates


depressor angularis oris--frowning

E.

Cervical branch innervates platysma -lowers mandible, tenses skin of


anterior neck

*These are key innervations to the muscles


of facial expression. However, each nerve
branch innervates multiple muscles and
each muscle receives multiple nerve
branches.

A. The temporal and zygomatic branches of the facial


nerve provide SVE nerve fibers that innervate the ipsilateral
orbicularis oculi, the muscle responsible for closing the
eyelid.
Contraction of orbicularis

SVE

oculi causes the eyelid to close

Temporal branch

Zygomatic branch

Click here to start Animation

B. The zygomatic and buccal branches of the facial nerve


innervate the ipsilateral zygomaticus major muscle, the
main muscle responsible for smiling.
SVE
Zygomaticus
major muscle

Zygomatic branch
Contraction of the zygomaticus major muscle
causes smiling

Click here to start Animation

C. The buccal branch of the facial nerve innervates the


buccinator muscle, the muscle responsible for holding the
cheek against the teeth, thus positioning food for chewing.

SVE

Contraction of the buccinator muscle


causes tensing of the cheek which
helps position food within the occusal plane
for chewing

Buccal branch of
facial nerve innervates
Buccinator muscle.

Click here to start Animation

D. The mandibular and buccal branches of the facial nerve


innervate the ipsilateral depressor angularis oris muscle, a
muscle responsible for frowning.

SVE

Mandibular
branch

Depressor
angularis oris

Click here to start Animation

Contraction of the
depressor angularis oris
muscle causes frowning

E. The cervical branch of the facial nerve innervates the


platysma muscle, a muscle partly responsible for depressing the
mandible.

SVE

Contraction of platysma
Muscle results in
depression
of mandible.

Platysma muscle

Cervical branch of
facial nerve innervates
Platysma muscle.

Click here to start Animation

E. The cervical branch of the facial nerve innervates the


platysma muscle (the shaving muscle), a muscle
responsible for tightening the skin of the anterior neck.

SVE
Contraction of platysma
muscle causes the skin of the
anterior neck to tighten.

Platysma muscle

Cervical branch of
facial nerve innervates
Platysma muscle.

Click here to start Animation

Summary of
SVE

Internal Acoustic
Meatus

Facial
nucleus

Stapedius muscle
dampens
movement of
ossicles.

Facial
canal

Facial nerve
Stylomastoid
Foramen

Facial nerve

Posterior
auricular N.
Posterior auricular
muscle responsible for
posterior displacement
of pinna.
Stylohyoid muscle
elevates hyoid bone.

Posterior belly
of digastric
elevates hyoid
bone.

Click here to start Animation

Temporal-orbicularis oculi
closes eyelids.
Zygomatic-zygomaticus major
partly responsible for smiling.
Buccal-buccinator tenses cheek
Mandibular-depressor angularis
oris responsible for frowning.
Cervical- platysma helps lower
mandible and tightens skin of
neck.

GVA Component of the Facial


Nerve
The next slide demonstrates that GVA is
responsible for providing:
1. Light touch, temperature, and pain
sensation from the soft palate via the
greater superficial petrosal nerve
(GSPN).
Click here to start GVA

1. GVA provides sensation of light touch,


temperature, and pain from the soft palate.
GVA

Temperature sensation

GSPN

soft
palate

Light touch sensation


Pain sensation
Facial nerve

Light touch, temperature,


and pain from
the soft palate

Click here for animation

Through the
Pterygoid canal

Summary
of GVA

Through the
hiatus of canal of
GSPN

GSPN

Through the
internal acoustic
meatus

Facial
canal

Facial nerve

Light touch,
temperature,
and pain from
the soft palate

Click here for animation

Pterygoid
canal

Through the
lesser palatine
canal

SVA Component of the


Facial Nerve
The next two slides demonstrate that SVA
is responsible for providing:
1. Taste from the hard and soft palate via
the greater superficial petrosal nerve
(GSPN).
2. Taste from the anterior 2/3 of the
tongue via the chorda tympani nerve.
Click here for animation

1. SVA provides taste sensation from the hard and


soft palate via the GSPN.
SVA

Hard palate

Soft
palate
GSPN branches from
the facial nerve at the
geniculate ganglion
within the genu of the
facial canal. It is made up
of fibers from SVA,
GVE, and GVA.

Co
Sweetened
coffee

Taste from the hard


and soft palate

Click here for animation

2. SVA provides taste to the anterior 2/3 of


the tongue via the chorda tympani nerve.
SVA

Chorda
tympani

Taste from the anterior


2/3 of the tongue

Click here for animation

Summary
of SVA

Hiatus of canal of greater


superficial petrosal nerve

Internal
Acoustic
Meatus

Lacerate foramen

GSPN

Pterygoid
canal

Facial
canal

Petrotympanic
fissure

Chorda tympani
Taste from hard
and soft palate.

Stylomastoid
Foramen

Taste from
anterior 2/3
tongue.

Click here to start animation

Greater and
lesser palatine
canals

GVE Component of the


Facial Nerve
1. Via the pterygopalatine ganglion GVE provides:
A. Lacrimation (tearing of the eye)
B. Mucus secretions of the nasal cavity
C. Mucus secretions of the oral cavity
2. Via innervation of the submandibular ganglion
GVE provides:
A. Salivation of the oral cavity
Click to start Animation of GVE component

1. The GVE component of the facial nerve transmits preganglionic


fibers to the pterygopalatine ganglion via the GSPN. From the
pterygopalatine ganglion postganglionic fibers cause ipsilateral
lacrimation and mucus secretions of the nasal and oral cavities.

GVE

GSPN

Lacrimal gland
Pterygopalatine
ganglion

A. Tearing of eye
Lacrimal nucleus
B. Mucus secretion of
nasal cavities
C. Mucus secretion
of hard and soft
palate.

Click here to start Animation

2. The GVE component of the facial nerve transmits preganglionic


fibers to the submandibular ganglion via the chorda tympani nerve.
From the submandibular ganglion postganglionic fibers innervate the
submandibular and sublingual glands, causing salivation.

GVE
Sublingulal
gland

Submandibular
gland
Superior salivary
nucleus
Chorda
tympani
Submandibular
ganglion

Click here to start Animation

Summary
of GVE

Hiatus of canal of greater


superficial petrosal nerve

Inferior Orbital Fissure


Lacerate foramen
GSPN

Greater and
lesser palatine
canals

Pterygoid
canal

Internal
Acoustic
Meatus

From the pterygopalatine ganglion


postganglionic GVE fibers
provide lacrimation of the
eyes and mucus secretion of the
nasal cavity and oral cavity.

Facial
canal

Petrotympanic fissure

Superior salivary
and lacrimal nucleus

Chorda tympani

From the submandibular


ganglion postganglionic
GVE fibers provide
salivation in the oral cavity.

Click here to start animation

GSA Component of the


Facial Nerve
GSA is responsible for providing:
1. Touch, temperature, and pain sensation from
part of the external acoustic meatus via the
posterior auricular nerve.

Click here to start GSA

1. GSA provides touch, temperature, and pain


sensation from the external acoustic meatus.
Cotton swab

GSA

Touch, temperature,
and pain sensation
from part of the
external acoustic
meatus.

Posterior
auricular
nerve

Click here to start animation

Foramen Rotundem

Summary of
GSA

Internal Acoustic
Meatus

Facial
canal

Facial nerve
Stylomastoid
Foramen

Facial nerve

Touch, temperature,
and pain sensation
from the external
acoustic meatus.
Posterior
auricular
nerve

Click here to start animation

Inferior Orbital Fissure

Summary of functional components


Each of the five functional components of the
facial nerve SVE, GVA, SVA, GVE, and GSA
have a unique function. Knowledge of these
functional components can be applied to clinical
observations to aid in localizing lesions of nerve
branches or at anatomical landmarks.
The following slides provide examples of how
lesions at different locations can effect function.

Question #1
One effect of a lesion here, between
the branching of the stapedial nerve
and the branching of the chorda
tympani nerve, would be:
A. Paralysis
of facial
muscles
A. Paralysis
of facial
muscles
B. Decreased
sensation of
softsoft
palate
B. Decreased
sensation
palate

C. Decreased
hearingto
sensivity
C. Increased
sensitivity
loud noise

D. LossD.ofLoss
taste
of hard
of taste
to thepalate
soft palate

Question #2
A lesion here, between the
branching of the stapedial nerve
and the branching of the chorda
tympani nerve, will also cause?
A. Loss of light touch from the soft palate
B. Loss of taste from the soft palate
C. Loss of taste of anterior 2/3 of tongue
D. Loss of temperature from the soft palate.

Question #3
One effect of a lesion here, at the
stylomastoid foramen will be:

A. Loss of light touch from the soft palate


B. Loss of salivation of oral cavity
C. Increased sensitivity to loud noises
D.Partial loss of sensation of external acoustic meatus

Question #4
A lesion here, between the branching of
the GSPN and the branching of the
stapedial nerve, will spare:

A. Taste of anterior 2/3 of tongue


B. Taste of hard palate
C. Salivation in oral cavity
D. Ipsilateral facial expression

Question #5
A lesion here, between the
branching of the GSPN and the
branching of the stapedial nerve,
will also spare:
A. Light touch from the soft palate
B. Ability to smile
C. Taste from the anterior 2/3 of tongue
D. Protection of the inner ear from loud noises

Thank You
Return to SVE

Return to GVA

Return to GVE

Return to SVA

Return to GSA

Return to Lesion Questions

Incorrect
The GVA component of the GSPN, which is spared by this lesion,
is responsible for providing sensation from the soft palate.

Please try again

Incorrect
The stapedial nerve (SVE), which is spared by this lesion, is
responsible for protecting the ear from increased sensitivity to loud
noises.

Please try again

Incorrect
The SVA component of the GSPN, which is spared by this lesion,
is responsible for providing taste from the hard palate.

Please try again

Incorrect
The GVA component of the GSPN, which is spared by this lesion,
is responsible for providing light touch from the soft palate.

Please try again

Incorrect
The SVA component of the GSPN, which is spared by this lesion,
is responsible for providing taste from the soft palate.

Please try again

Incorrect
The GVA component of the GSPN, which is spared by this lesion,
is responsible for providing temperature sensation from
the soft palate.

Please try again

Incorrect
The GVA component of the GSPN, which is spared by this lesion,
is responsible for providing light touch from the soft palate.

Please try again

Incorrect
The GVE component of the chorda tympani nerve, which is spared
by this lesion, is responsible for providing salivation
of the oral cavity.

Please try again

Incorrect
The stapedial nerve (SVE), which is spared by this lesion, is
responsible for protecting the ear from increased sensitivity to loud
noises.

Please try again

Incorrect
This lesion will not spare taste to the anterior 2/3 of the tongue,
which is supplied via the SVA component of the chorda tympani
nerve.

Please try again

Incorrect
This lesion will not spare salivation of the oral cavity, which is
supplied by the GVE component of the chorda tympani nerve.

Please try again

Incorrect
This lesion will not spare ipsilateral facial expression, which is
supplied by the temporal, zygomatic, buccal, mandibular, and
cervical branches of the facial nerve (SVE).

Please try again

Incorrect
This lesion will not spare the ability to smile, which is supplied by
the zygomatic branch of the facial nerve (SVE).

Please try again

Incorrect
This lesion will not spare the ability to taste from the anterior 2/3 of
the tongue, which is supplied by the SVA component of the chorda
tympani nerve.

Please try again

Incorrect
This lesion will not spare the ability to smile, which is supplied by
the zygomatic branch of the facial nerve (SVE).

Please try again

Incorrect
This lesion will not spare the ability to protect the ear from loud
noises, which is supplied by the stapedial nerve (SVE).

Please try again

Correct!
A lesion here will cause paralysis of facial muscles due
to its disruption of the SVE component.

Go back to question 1

Next question

Correct!
A lesion here will cause a loss of taste to the anterior 2/3 of the
tongue due to the disruption of the SVA component of
the chorda tympani nerve.

Go back to question 2

Next question

Correct!
A lesion here will cause partial loss of sensation (light touch,
temperature, and pain) of the external acoustic meatus due to
disruption of the GSA component of the posterior auricular nerve.

Go back to question 3

Next question

Correct!
A lesion here will spare a persons ability to taste on the hard and soft
palate because the SVA component of the Greater Superficial Petrosal
Nerve (GSPN) remains intact.

Go back to question 4

Next question

Correct!
A lesion here will spare the sensation of light touch of the soft palate
because the GVA component of the GSPN remains intact.

Go back to question 5

Continue