Vagus Nerve

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    Syllabus :GS 3/Science and Technology

    In News

    • Research has indicated a link between vagus nerve dysfunction and long COVID.

    About the Vagus Nerve

    • They’re actually a pair of nerves, one on each side, that run from brainstem, through the neck, to chest and stomach. 
      •  They are the longest cranial nerves, going from brain to large intestine, fulfilling their meaning (‘vagus’ in Latin means ‘wandering’) by passing through, or connecting with neck, heart, lungs, abdomen and digestive tract – all important parts. 
    • They form a key part of the parasympathetic nervous system.
      • They are the 10th of 12 cranial nerves and contain 75% of the parasympathetic nervous system’s nerve fibre. 
    • They work bi-directionally, allowing the brain and body to communicate with each other. 

    Related Research

    • Researchers are increasingly looking at ways through which stimulation of the vagus nerve may potentially help with various health conditions.
      • Some treatments are already in existence, for instance, an implantable vagus nerve stimulator is used to treat epilepsy and depression (that does not respond to conventional treatment), by stimulating areas of the brain that lead to seizures and affect moods.
    • Vagus nerve stimulation is also being studied for other diseases and disorders such as migraines, polycystic ovary syndrome, alcoholism, rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis and gut disorders such as inflammatory bowel disease and Crohn’s disease.

    [Brain activity in a patient before, top row, and after vagus nerve stimulation]

    Vagus nerve’s connection to long COVID

    • A study found that those with Post-Covid-19 Condition (PCC) or long COVID were more likely to have vagus nerve-related symptoms, compared to those who had recovered from COVID-19 and those not infected, indicating that vagus nerve dysfunction could have a role in the pathophysiology of PCC.

    Does vagus nerve stimulation benefit all patients?

    • Implanted vagus nerve stimulation does not work for everybody, and is not intended to replace conventional treatment.
    • It is still being studied and more research is needed into its potential therapeutic effect.
    Parasympathetic Nervous System

    – It is responsible for relaxing and resting the body after a bout of activity and for a number of vital functions including heart rate, blood pressure and digestion.
    – It also plays a role in the immune system.

    Source: TH