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Name: Mark Reynolds
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Question:
My name is Mark Reynolds. I have heard that there is a nerve in the cartilage area of the ear. My question is as follows: If you pierce your ear(s) and do hit the nerve, could permanent paralysis or brain damage occur? Thank you.



Replies:
No. Basically nerves serve two purposes: gathering information from the senses (sensory nerves) and controlling muscles (motor nerves). If you damage a sensory nerve, then that nerve can't send messages to the brain, but this will not damage the brain. If you damage a motor nerve then the brain can't send messages to a muscle and indeed paralysis occurs. But nerves are laid out sensibly, that is, nerves do not go from your brain through your earlobe and then on to your leg or arm. Damaging a motor nerve in your ear won't affect anything other than your ear muscles, if there are any. Paralysis is usually temporary if motor nerve damage occurs outside of the spinal cord, since the main body of the motor nerve cells are in the spinal cord and the "axons" connecting them to the muscles can regrow (about a millimeter a day). If nerve cell bodies themselves are damaged by injury to the spinal cord they may recover and paralysis go away. This may also happen even if nerve cells are killed, as long as not too many are, and other cells can take over. But if too many are killed paralysis is permanent, since nerve cells never reproduce.

Christopher Grayce



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