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Description: Do you know what the Vagus nerve is and what it does? Well, to begin with, it is not a single nerve cell but rather a complex nerve network with connections throughout the body. In terms of what it does, we are still working on that one, but it could be loosely described as the system that fulfills the actions of the parasympathetic nervous system which could, again simply, be described as relaxation or counter-stress involved. Sound interesting? There has been a virtual explosion of interest in the Vagal nerve system in recent years and Vagal stimulation has been shown to positively impact a diversity of things from gut issues (Crohn’s disease) to depression, and stress issues. Read through the article linked below for a general overview and get tuned in to what will, I think, be an important research and application area to pay attention to over the next while.

Source: Science Confirms That the Vagus Nerve Is Key to Well-being, Markham Heid, The Nuance, Elemental.

Date: December 19, 2019

Photo Credit: Kieran Blakey

Article Link:

The article linked above scratches the surface of research and application work involving the Vagus nerve system. If you would like to dig in a bit deeper, you can do your own search, or you can start with a few of the references in the References section below. It is a certainty that there will be more than one or two things there that tweak your interest and curiosity and that there is likely an emerging application that will, at some point, be worth your personal attention. Dig in!

Questions for Discussion:

  1. The term “Vagus nerve” to many non-neuroscience folks suggests a much simpler thing that what the Vagus nerve actually is. What would be a better general descriptive term?
  2. How could the Vagus nerve be involved in gut issues, depression, and emotional expression??
  3. The linked article talked a lot about Vagus stimulation. With your possible answer to question 1 in mind what sort of more general “application” context might or should we place Vagus stimulation in? (E.g., if the Vagus nerve is the mechanism of action for the parasympathetic system what other system(s) could also be involved in applications/treatments?)

References (Read Further):

Yuan, H., & Silberstein, S. D. (2016). Vagus nerve and vagus nerve stimulation, a comprehensive review: part I. Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain, 56(1), 71-78.

Yuan, H., & Silberstein, S. D. (2016). Vagus nerve and vagus nerve stimulation, a comprehensive review: part II. Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain, 56(2), 259-266.

Yuan, H., & Silberstein, S. D. (2016). Vagus nerve and vagus nerve stimulation, a comprehensive review: part III. Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain, 56(3), 479-490.

De Couck, M., Caers, R., Spiegel, D., & Gidron, Y. (2018). The role of the vagus nerve in cancer prognosis: a systematic and a comprehensive review. Journal of Oncology, 2018.

Porges, S. W. (2003). The polyvagal theory: Phylogenetic contributions to social behavior. Physiology & behavior, 79(3), 503-513.

Patriquin, M. A., Hartwig, E. M., Friedman, B. H., Porges, S. W., & Scarpa, A. (2019). Autonomic response in autism spectrum disorder: Relationship to social and cognitive functioning. Biological psychology, 145, 185-197.

Johnson, R. L., & Wilson, C. G. (2018). A review of vagus nerve stimulation as a therapeutic intervention. Journal of inflammation research, 11, 203.

Lendvai, I. S., Maier, A., Scheele, D., Hurlemann, R., & Kinfe, T. M. (2018). Spotlight on cervical vagus nerve stimulation for the treatment of primary headache disorders: a review. Journal of pain research, 11, 1613.

Kim, H. G., Cheon, E. J., Bai, D. S., Lee, Y. H., & Koo, B. H. (2018). Stress and heart rate variability: A meta-analysis and review of the literature. Psychiatry investigation, 15(3), 235.