The Vagus Nerve

Chloe has had feeding issues since she was born. At our first GI appointment (way back when), the doctor mentioned the Vagus Nerve. He said this nerve is connected to brain, neck, chest, heart, stomach, etc. He said that the majority of heart babies have feeding issues and research is showing that the Vagus Nerve may be involved in the explanation.

The vagus nerve, also called pneumogastric nerve or cranial nerve X, is the tenth of twelve paired cranial nerves, and is the only nerve that starts in the brainstem and extends through the jugular, then passes into the carotid sheath between the internal carotid artery and the internal jugular vein down below the head, to the neck, chest and abdomen.

Besides output to the various organs in the body, the vagus nerve conveys sensory information about the state of the body’s organs to the central nervous system. 80-90% of the nerve fibers in the vagus nerve are sensory nerves communicating the state of the viscera to the brain. The vagus is also called the pneumogastric nerve since it innervates both the lungs and the stomach. This means that the vagus nerve is responsible for such varied tasks as heart rate, gastrointestinal peristalsis, sweating, and quite a few muscle movements in the mouth, including speech (via the recurrent laryngeal nerve) and keeping the larynx open for breathing. It also has some afferent fibers that innervate the inner (canal) portion of the outer ear, via the Auricular branch and part of the meninges.

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