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Let’s Get To Know The Vagus Nerve

The  vagus nerve is the longest and arguably the most important nerve in the human body. It connects all your important organs including heart, lungs, gut and brain. To understand the vagus nerve is to undertand the human condition.

A healthy vagus nerve leads to good temper, better sleep and increased immunity. Conversely if you have a hot temper, trouble relaxing or digestion problems it may be time to get to know your vagus nerve better.

What is the Vagus Nerve?

The vagus nerve is one of 12 cranial nerves that relay information to or from the brain. Technically a pair of nerves (which will be relevant later when discussing stimulation) it is labelled as the 10th or X in roman numerals.

It connects the brainstem to many organs in the body. Because it has both sensory and motor functions it is transmitting information in both directions. So when the brain is communicating with the organs they are answering back.

What does the Vagus Nerve Affect?

If you had never given your vagus nerve much thought that's probably because it controls all the functions you don't need to thnk about

  • Heartrate
  • Breathing
  • Digestion
  • Coughing, Sneezing & Swallowing

These autonomic functions are controlled by two sides of the nervous system.  The sympathetic can be thought of as the gas pedal that accelerates them. The vagus nerve is part of the parasympathetic - the brake pedal to slow things down. 

Anatomy of the Vagus Nerve

There are twelve cranial nerves and the vagus is labelled as the 10th, or X in roman numbeals. Technically a pair of nevres which will be relevant later when discussing stimulation. 

Organs connected to the Vagus Nerve

Vagus is the latin word for "wandering" and is an approrpiate for the CN X nerve because of it's wandering path through the human body.

Brain Illustration

Brain

Changes in the activity of the vagus nerve have long been associated with the onset of dementia and general cognitive decline. But recent studies have further show that stimulation of the nerve in healthy people improved memory performance; because stimulation activates regions of the brain which are important in the consolidation memories.
Heart

Heart

The vagus nerve plays an active role in regulating your heart rate. Other parts of the nervous system accelerate your heart rate while the vagus nerve is responsible for returning your body to a calm and relaxed state. Under activity in the nerve can lead to hypertension and depression.
Lungs

Lungs

Signals from the brain pass along the vagus nerve and control the action of your lungs as you breath. This is why you can stimulate your vagus nerve naturally with deep breathing.
Kidneys

Kidneys

Inflammation is a natural and necessary reaction to injury or illness, but excessive inflammation can cause many dangerous or harmful conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis or sepsis. The vagus nerve works to prevent excessive inflammation by alerting the brain to the presence of cytokines which then triggers the release of anit-inflammatory molecules that reduce the inflammation and maintain a healthy balance.
Intestines

Intestines

The expression "gut reaction" comes from the strong link between your intestine and your brain. However, the extent of this connection is only now being fully understood through scientific research. Communication between the guts and the brain obviously plays an important role in managing appetite and reducing obesity; but recent science has demonstrated that it also regulate general mood, cognition and immune function.

Vagus Nerve Conditions

The full healing possibilities of the vagus nerve are only starting to be understood. Conditions that are currently being investigated from a vagus nerve perspective include:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Heart failure
  • Epilepsy
  • Parkinson's disease

 

Vagus Nerve FAQs

Where is the Vagus Nerve Stimulated?
Tthe easiest location to stimulate the Vagus Nerve happens to be in the ear.  Specifically the tragus of the left ear.
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