Sunday, October 16, 2011

Smiles, Swallows, and Moose


Head and Neck is halfway through and we take the final next Monday.  Somehow it seems like I'm learning it better and faster than Gross Anatomy, but we'll reserve judgments till after the results of the final.  We learn some cool things and some less cool things.  The less cool things include the branches of the three divisions of the maxillary artery (we are learning 11 of the branches.)  The cool things are mythbuster things like how many muscles it really takes to smile and frown (I've heard between 17 and 26 to smile and 43 to 62 to frown.  I don't exactly know how the motivational speakers and demoticons gathered their information, but defining a smile as raising the corners of the mouth and the entire upper lip, it takes about 10 facial muscles and the corresponding frown with a pouting lip takes 6 (that's according to the pictures in Thieme's Atlas of Anatomy).

I wish I had known this back in high school so I could abandon my smile for a look of mild disappointment in order to conserve energy.  If, however, you define a smile or frown as simply raising or lowering the corners of the mouth, then you have a 4 and 4 tie. 



Also interesting is the anatomy of sword swallowing.  Somehow going to the Rennaisance Festival wasn't enough to convince me that the swords the performers were using weren't collapsible.  Some undoubtedly were, but I never asked myself why they extend their neck.  The anatomy behind it is rather straight forward.  Leaning the head back creates a straighter line between the oral cavity and the pharynx to the esophagus.  The performer tries to relax the upper esophageal sphincter and control the gag reflex, sneezing reflex, hiccoughing, coughing, or anything else that might tighten the body around the sword

Past the pharynx the sword passes into the rather flexible esophagus. The stomach, is normally at an oblique angle to the esophagus, but is brought into line as the sword enters through the cardiac sphincter. Some performers consume a large meal or drink water before performing to give the stomach a more vertical orientation, allowing for easier passage of the sword.  Most keep the sword down for only a few seconds since it is difficult to suppress the gag reflex for very long.  

Yesterday we played a friendly game of flag football. We had so many people come out that we had to split into four teams and then rotate opponents.  During a particularly fantastic play on my part (when I wasn't slipping on the sodden field) I let out a celebratory whoop.  Then during the lull before the next play, we all heard a big game animal that sounded suspiciously like my whoop.  Moral to the story is, it's all fun and games until a moose mistakes you for its mate.

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