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Vagus Nerve

The vagus nerve, also known as the vagal nerves, are the main nerves of your parasympathetic nervous system. This system controls specific body functions such as digestion, heart rate and immune system. These functions are involuntary, meaning you can’t consciously control them.

Your left and right vagal nerves contain 75% of your parasympathetic nervous system’s nerve fibres. These fibres send information between your brain, heart and digestive system.

What is the function of the vagus nerve?

Your vagal nerves are part of your body’s nervous system. They play important roles in involuntary sensory and motor (movement) functions, including:

  • Heart rate, blood pressure and respiration (breathing).
  • Immune system responses.
  • Mucus and saliva production.
  • Skin and muscle sensations.
  • Urine output.

What is the role of the parasympathetic nervous system?

Your parasympathetic nervous system controls “rest and digest” functions. It’s the opposite of your sympathetic nervous system’s “fight or flight” response.

These two nervous systems make up your autonomic nervous system. This system controls involuntary body activities.

Where is the vagus nerve?

Your vagus nerves are the longest cranial nerve, running from your brain to your large intestine. Your left vagus nerve travels down the left side of your body. The right vagus nerve travels down the right side of your body.

“Vagus” is the Latin word for wandering. Your vagal nerves take a long, winding course through your body. They exit from your medulla oblongata in your lower brainstem.

What are the vagal nerve branches?

The vagal trunk includes anterior (front) and posterior (back) gastric nerves that go to your abdomen. Your left and right vagal nerves join to form the vagal trunk. They connect at your esophageal hiatus, the opening where your esophagus passes into your abdominal cavity (belly).

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