Introduction to Vagus Nerve

The Vagus nerve is the tenth cranial nerve present in the body. Generally, there are 12 pairs of cranial nerves in the body. These nerves help the brain to connect to various parts of the body. Some nerves may perform sensory functions and some nerves may perform motor functions and some may perform both. The Vagus nerve is also one among them which performs both functions. Let's see what is the vagus nerve, vagus nerve location nerve, its functions, vagus nerve supply, etc.

What is the Vagus Nerve?

In Latin, Vagus meaning is wandering. The importance and behaviour of the Vagus nerve are discussed here. The vagus nerve meaning can be understood only by understanding the functions and location of the Vagus nerve. The 10th cranial nerve name in our body is nothing but the vagus nerve. Also, the notation of the vagus nerve is CN X.

Among all other cranial nerves, few were represented by Roman numerals and the remaining were represented by numbers themselves. Below is the figure of the vagus nerve.

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Vagus Nerve Location

As the Vagus nerve is the longest of all cranial nerves, it is connected from the brain to the bottom part of the body. The Vagus nerve location can be explained systematically. The vagus starts from the brain and moves towards the face and reaches the abdomen through the thorax. The Vagus nerve is quite a complex nerve that has parasympathetic fibers as well as two branches of sensory ganglia.

One is superior sensory ganglion which moves through the skin and reaches the ear's concha. Again, the inferior vagus nerve ganglion is divided into two branches. The pharyngeal nerve and the laryngeal nerve along with esophageal, and pulmonary branches. Each branch functions for different parts of our bodies. These nerves send signals to all parts of the body which include the stomach,  cardiac muscles, pancreas, etc.

Functions of Vagus Nerve

The vagus nerve is the 10th cranial nerve in the body and has different types of functions. They are as follows. 

Sensory Functions:- 

The sensory functions of the vagus are divided into two different components.

  • One is somatic components which refer to the sensations felt by the brain from the skin as well as muscles.

  • If the sensations felt by the brain due to the organs of the body, then those components are known as visceral components.

Besides these components, the sensory functions performed by the Vagus nerve are as follows- 

  • They help to provide the information from the brain to the skin, middle parts of the throat, and external parts of the ear.

  • The larynx, heart, esophagus, trachea, lungs, and most of the digestive tract receive visceral information through the brain.

  • Also contributes to providing the information of taste at the bottom part of the tongue. This part is also known as the root part of the tongue. This function is nothing but a special sensory function of the Vagus nerve.

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Motor Functions

The motor functions of the Vagus nerves majorly include the transferring of information for the larynx and pharynx

  • Provides information and stimulates a muscle of the fleshy part around the tongue and mouth. These parts include the larynx, firings, and a soft palate.

  • It also has a major part in reducing the resting heart rate.

  • A motor function that helps to contract the involuntary muscles of the stomach, intestine and helps to move the food through a tract. 

These are the different functions performed by the vagus nerve present in the body. Also, some cardiac functions were known as parasympathetic functions of the Vagus nerve. The vagus nerves supply all types of information to various parts of the body. Every function of the vagus nerves has its cell bodies, unique name, etc. 

Bottom Line 

Hence, the vagus nerve helps to supply various information to various parts of the brain and vice versa. This is the 10th cranial nerve present in the body. The Roman number is used to represent its notation. One should keep all the cranial nerves properly and healthy. Especially the vagus should be healthy as it performs various functions. 

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. What are the Symptoms of Gastroparesis?

Ans. Gastroparesis is a usual disease that is caused due to the damage of the vagus nerve present in the stomach. This leads to several health issues and leads to some other chronic diseases. The basic symptoms of gastroparesis are- 

  • Vomiting sensations make the person lose appetite.

  • Nausea

  • Abdominal bloating is a common symptom observed in several cases.

  • Abdominal pain was suffered by people with unhealthy vagus nerves.

  • A feeling of fullness after eating just a few bites prevents taking nutritional food.

  • Vomiting undigested food, eaten a few hours earlier.

  • Acid reflux may be observed due to excess heat and gas.

  • Changes in blood sugar levels because of deficiency in the food intake.

  • Lack of appetite, abnormal weight loss, and malnutrition are also some symptoms.

2. How Can We Identify Damage to the Vagus Nerve?

Ans. Identifying the illness and damage of the Vagus nerve can be done by noticing a few symptoms will help us to keep an eye on our body to prevent more severity and adverse effects of damaged vagus nerves. They are - 

  • Feels difficulty speaking or loss of voice or sore throat 

  • A voice that is hoarse or wheezy and is not smooth and clear.

  • Feels like an obstacle in drinking 

  • Loss of the gag reflex

  • Pain in the outer part of the ear

  • The uneven signals result in unusual heart rate 

  • Fluctuation occurs and shows abnormal blood pressure

  • One can observe decreased production of stomach acid 

These are the various symptoms that can act as an alarm to realize about the inner body of ourselves. These symptoms may vary from person to person but the negligence may lead to severe chronic diseases. Nowadays the vagus nerve stimulation helps to cure several diseases like Alzheimer's, migraine, multiple sclerosis, etc.