The eth­moid: sieves, mu­cous and mag­nets

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Health - Dr Adam Taor

What is it? A bone at the front of the skull that forms the roof of the cav­ity of the nose, sep­a­rat­ing it from the brain. What’s it got to do with sieves? Parts of this bone are rid­dled with holes, mak­ing it look like a sieve ( eth­moid means sieve-like in Greek). The an­cient Ro­mans be­lieved the mu­cus in our nose had drained through the eth­moid from our brain. And mag­nets? Hom­ing pi­geons have mag­netic ma­te­rial in their eth­moid bone, and it’s be­lieved this al­lows them to nav­i­gate by sens­ing the Earth’s mag­netic field. We also have mag­netic ma­te­rial in our eth­moid, but its func­tion, if it has one, is un­known. What can hap­pen if it is bro­ken? This del­i­cate bone can frac­ture af­ter blows to the nose, which can dam­age nerves that al­low us to smell. Eth­moid frac­tures can also open up a pas­sage be­tween the nose and the eye, caus­ing the eye to bulge out when peo­ple sneeze.

Il­lus­tra­tion: Nathalie Gar­cia

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