The Bicentenary of Bell’s Description of the Neuroanatomical Basis of Facial Paralysis: Historical Remarks

Giovanna Cantarella, Riccardo F. Mazzola

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Charles Bell was a talented and versatile Scottish anatomist, neurophysiologist, artist, and surgeon. On July 12, 1821, he reported his studies regarding facial innervation in the essay “On the Nerves,” read before the Royal Society in London. Since then, idiopathic peripheral facial paralysis has been named “Bell’s palsy.” He was the first author to describe the neuroanatomical basis of facial paralysis, in an essay enriched by beautifully self-made illustrations. The aim of this article is to trace the history of Bell’s description of the neuroanatomy of the facial nerve, reexamining his 1821 article, in which he stated that the lower facial expression muscles were dually innervated by both the fifth and seventh cranial nerves. In 1829, he rectified this conclusion, recognizing the exclusive role of the facial nerve, which he defined as the “respiratory nerve.” We offer a tribute to this polymath scientist on the bicentenary of his 1821 publication.

Original languageEnglish
JournalOtolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery (United States)
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021

Keywords

  • Bell’s palsy
  • Charles Bell
  • facial innervation
  • facial nerve
  • facial palsy
  • respiratory nerve
  • trigeminal nerve

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Otorhinolaryngology

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