VAGUS NERVE FACTS
Is a major component of the parasympathetic nervous system
Is the 10th
Is a family of nerves that wander throughout the body
Begins in the brainstem
It goes directly to the heart and other visceral organs
It is involved in the regulation of physiological processes in major organs but most important in the heart and gut
It has a top-down/bottom-up function (organs send messages to the brain, brain sends messages to the organs)
Is a bidirectional highway and sends sensory information from our body to the brain and motor information from the brain to the body
The Vagus nerve has two branches: dorsal and ventral
The ventral vagal pathway influences organs ABOVE the diaphragm and is located in the front
The dorsal vagal pathway influences organs BELOW the diaphragm and is located in the back
As clinicians, part of our role is to aide clients in learning techniques to calm the body and overcome prolonged negative responses to stress signals. Both branches of the vagus nerve assist us in calming the body and exiting the flight-fight mode.
1. The two vagal pathways represent the evolution of the autonomic nervous system.
The oldest is the dorsal branch (our reptilian ancestors) and the newest is the ventral vagal (uniquely mammalian).
2. The ventral vagal pathway travels from the heart and is connected through pathways to the face and head: regulating how you see, hear, speak, turn and tilt your head and express emotions with your face.
This system is constantly sending and receiving information about yourself and gathering information from others.
This social engagement system sends signals either inviting or discouraging connection. It looks for warning or welcoming.
3. The dorsal vagal pathway is the oldest most primal part of the vagus nerve and responds to cues of danger. It is a primitive nerve and common to all reptiles, including fish. It aids in the function of our lungs, hearts, and stomach. Typically, it helps our body pendulate between relaxation and arousal, however, when the sympathetic nervous system is to aroused, it’ll shut down our system and move us into a freeze state. It moves us away from connection and into protection.