Anatomy word of the month: Vagus

December 1, 2011 —

VagusVagus means “wandering” in Latin. This aptly named nerve (there are a pair of them) meanders from our brainstem, down the sides of our neck giving branches to our palate, larynx and pharynx, through our chest cavity providing branches to the heart and lungs, and into our abdominal cavity providing branches to most of our digestive tract. Vagal stimulation to the stomach enhances acid secretion, peristalsis (churning activity) and emptying into the small intestine. Vagal branches also stimulate secretions and peristalsis in our intestines. The same root meaning of vagus is found in the common words vague, vagrant and vagabond.


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