Sensory, motor, or both: Both sensory and motor
Origin/Target: Pons(cerebellopontine angle) above olive
Nuclei: Facial nucleus, Solitary nucleus, Superior salivary nucleus
Function: Provides motor innervation to the muscles of facial expression, posterior belly of the digastric muscle, stylohyoid muscle, andstapedius muscle. Also receives the special sense of taste from the anterior 2/3 of the tongue and provides secretomotorinnervation to the salivary glands (except parotid) and the lacrimal gland. Located in and runs through the internal acoustic canal to the facial canal and exits at the stylomastoid foramen.
The facial nerve consists of a motor and a sensory part, the latter being frequently described under the name of the nervus intermedius (pars intermedii of Wrisberg). The two parts emerge at the lower border of the pons in the recess between the olive and the inferior peduncle, the motor part being the more medial, immediately to the lateral side of the sensory part is the acoustic nerve.
The motor part supplies somatic motor fibers to the muscles of the face, scalp, and auricle, the Buccinator and Platysma, the Stapedius, the Stylohyoideus, and posterior belly of the Digastricus; it also contains some sympathetic motor fibers which constitute the vasodilator nerves of the submaxillary and sublingual glands, and are conveyed through the chorda tympani nerve. These are preganglionic fibers of the sympathetic system and terminate in the submaxillary ganglion and small ganglia in the hilus of the submaxillary gland. From these ganglia postganglionic fibers are conveyed to these glands. The sensory part contains the fibers of taste for the anterior two-thirds of the tongue and a few somatic sensory fibers from the middle ear region. A few splanchnic sensory fibers are also present.
The motor root arises from a nucleus which lies deeply in the reticular formation of the lower part of the pons. This nucleus is situated above the nucleus ambiguus, behind the superior olivary nucleus, and medial to the spinal tract of the trigeminal nerve. From this origin the fibers pursue a curved course in the substance of the pons. They first pass backward and medialward toward the rhomboid fossa, and, reaching the posterior end of the nucleus of the abducent nerve, run upward close to the middle line beneath the colliculus fasciculus. At the anterior end of the nucleus of the abducent nerve they make a second bend, and run downward and forward through the pons to their point of emergence between the olive and the inferior peduncle.
The sensory root arises from the genicular ganglion, which is situated on the geniculum of the facial nerve in the facial canal, behind the hiatus of the canal. The cells of this ganglion are unipolar, and the single process divides in a T-shaped manner into central and peripheral branches. The central branches leave the trunk of the facial nerve in the internal acoustic meatus, and form the sensory root; the peripheral branches are continued into the chorda tympani and greater superficial petrosal nerves. Entering the brain at the lower border of the pons between the motor root and the acoustic nerve, the fibers of the sensory root pass into the substance of the medulla oblongata and end in the upper part of the terminal nucleus of the glossopharyngeal nerve and in the fasciculus solitarius.
From their superficial attachments to the brain, the two roots of the facial nerve pass lateralward and forward with the acoustic nerve to the internal acoustic meatus. In the meatus the motor root lies in a groove on the upper and anterior surface of the acoustic nerve, the sensory root being placed between them.
At the bottom of the meatus, the facial nerve enters the facial canal, which it traverses to its termination at the stylomastoid foramen. It is at first directed lateralward between the cochlea and vestibule toward the medial wall of the tympanic cavity; it then bends suddenly backward and arches downward behind the tympanic cavity to the stylomastoid foramen. The point where it changes its direction is named the geniculum; it presents a reddish gangliform swelling, the genicular ganglion (ganglion geniculi; geniculate ganglion; nucleus of the sensory root of the nerve). On emerging from the stylomastoid foramen, the facial nerve runs forward in the substance of the parotid gland, crosses the external carotid artery, and divides behind the ramus of the mandible into branches, from which numerous offsets are distributed over the side of the head, face, and upper part of the neck, supplying the superficial muscles in these regions. The branches and their offsets unite to form the parotid plexus.