The wandering nerve: the name ‘vagus’ comes from the Latin meaning "wandering”.
The vagus nerve is one of the longest nerves in the body. It extends from the base of the brain and branches to parts of the face and neck before passing down into the core of the body and connecting to all the major organs. The nerve is crucial in regulating much of the involuntary processes of the body, such as heart rate, breathing, digestion and immune system response. Sensory feedback loops between the major organs and the brain are also known to play a crucial role in regulating a surprisingly broad array of processes such as memory formation, mood and our capacity to exercise.
Studies have shown that declining activity in the vagus nerve is the cause of many bodily imbalances which can lead to many of the minor health issue we can all experience, particularly as we age. In extreme cases, medics will implant an electrical simulator to directly target the major branch of the vagus nerve that passes down the neck. But recent evidence shows that less serious cases can be greatly mitigated by stimulating a branch of the nerve which extends into the ear; this is known as the auricular branch of the nerve and the tragus of the ear is an ideal location to reach the nerve.
So what does the vagus nerve do?