The Vagus Nerve and Me!

March 20th, 2009 - 11:04 pm ICT by GD  

The Vagus nerve is also referred to as the cranial nerve X or the pneumogastric nerve. This nerve is the tenth in the twelve paired cranial nerves. The vagus nerve is the only nerve that originates from the brainstem and extends down below the head, to the neck, chest and abdomen. The nerve serves as an output to various body organs. Moreover it also transmits sensory information about the condition of the organs to the central nervous system.

The term vagus literally means ‘wandering”. The plural of vagus is “vagi” Since the nerve is known to innervate both the stomach and the lungs; it is also referred to as the pneumogastric nerve.

The vagus nerve plays a vital role in performing the crucial functions of the body. It is responsible for functions such as regulating the heart rate, sweating, and muscle movements in the mouth. It helps in proper speech delivery and helps enables the larynx to remain open while breathing. The nerve also receives some sensation from the outer ear. Most importantly, it regulates the gastro intestinal functions.

Activation of the vagus heart can result in a decrease in heart rate and/or blood pressure. This generally happens due to the occurrence of any gastrointestinal illness. Dehydration may also tend to intensify this condition. In case of emotional stress the vagus nerve gets excessively activated leading to a drop in blood pressure and heart rate. This condition can also cause vasovagal syncope. Young children and women are mostly the victim of vasovagal syncope. In case of excess fear, vasovagal syncope can lead to temporary loss of bladder control.

Vagus nerve is an important functional nerve in our body and any damage to it can restrict us from performing even our basic activities.

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