The Vagus Nerve - What is it and why is it so important to our health?
▪ The vagus nerve controls many unconscious processes in the body
▪ The vagus neural network interfaces with inflammatory, mood and pain regulation.
▪ This can be utilised for its neuromodulatory effect in activating restorative pathways.
The vagus nerve has been called the ‘great wandering protector’ of the body, it’s made up of an intricate neural network that maintains homeostasis and equilibrium in important processes. Vagus is Latin for wandering, and the vagus nerve has earned this name due to its wide distribution traveling from most organs to the brainstem and projecting to other brain regions. Reciprocal neural connections with several of these brain areas serve as a control center that responds to new information (stimulus) with appropriate adaptive feedback for modulation.
The vagus nerve has four vagal nuclei that provide key controls to the cardiovascular, respiratory, and alimentary systems with respective neurotransmitters. It is tenth of twelve cranial nerves, being the main nerve interfacing with the parasympathetic division of the autonomic nervous system. Recent clinical studies have revealed that the vagus nerve is also involved in inflammation, mood, and pain regulation, all of which can be potentially modulated by stimulating the vagus nerve with micropulses of electrical current, known as Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS) or Transcutaneous Vagus Nerve Stimulation (tVNS, taVNS, nVNS, LLTS), which just means stimulation while not penetrating the skin. This is important as the vagus nerve may hold the key to new treatment options for a variety of health problems which interface vagal mechanisms, utilising a neuromodulatory effect to activate innate pathways for restoring health.
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Clancy, J. A., Deuchars, S. A., & Deuchars, J. (2013). The wonders of the Wanderer. Experimental physiology, 98(1), 38-45.