The vagus nerve (VN), the "great wondering protector" of the body, comprises an intricate neuro-endocrine-immune network that maintains homeostasis. With reciprocal neural connections to multiple brain regions, the VN serves as a control center that integrates interoceptive information and responds with appropriate adaptive modulatory feedbacks. While most VN fibers are unmyelinated C-fibers from the visceral organs, myelinated A- and B-fiber play an important role in somatic sensory, motor, and parasympathetic innervation. VN fibers are primarily cholinergic but other noncholinergic nonadrenergic neurotransmitters are also involved. VN has four vagal nuclei that provide critical controls to the cardiovascular, respiratory, and alimentary systems. Latest studies revealed that VN is also involved in inflammation, mood, and pain regulation, all of which can be potentially modulated by vagus nerve stimulation (VNS). With a broad vagal neural network, VNS may exert a neuromodulatory effect to activate certain innate "protective" pathways for restoring health.
Keywords: neuromodulation; vagus nerve; vagus nerve stimulation.
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