This is the 1oth of 12 pairs of cranial nerves. Vagus means wanderer, because this nerve has the most widely distributed connections of any single nerve in the body. Being a wanderer, it is also a great mixer and its branches are mixed up in communication with many other nerves and with the most vital body functions, such as swallowing, speaking, breathing, heart action and stomach action.

Besides all that, it has branches in the ears and communications with the sympathetic nerves and with many plexuses, including the most important and familiar "solar plexus." As you can see, the vagus nerve has a hand in almost everything that goes on in the body, especially through its ramifications and inter-communications with the abdominal plexuses of the sympathetic.
vagus nerve

If you poke in your ear and it makes you cough and gag, it is the branches of the vagus which send messages to the brain and back to the throat and stomach and even to the pelvic organs to warn you to stop that earpoking.

It is the branches of the vagus which make the stomach aware of the presence of food and it is also branches of the same nerve which start the stomach action churning the food to get it digested. The vagus nerve acts as the inhibitor of the heart's action.

It is the guardian of the breathing action of the lungs, opening the glottis of the larynx for air to get into the lungs and closing it to prevent food or foreign bodies from entering the larynx.

This nerve is responsible for the reflexes of coughing, vomiting, sighing and hiccuping and many other subconscious activities in the abdominal organs.

If the vagus nerve is cut, breathing slows down immediately and stops altogether in a short time. The vagus nerve must not be stimulated too much because its stimulation inhibits heart action and causes the heart to become flabby and inactive.

I have gone into some detail about this nerve in order to show how complicated the interconnections of the nerves are. The phrenic nerve formed of combined branches from the 3rd, 4th and 5th cranial nerves has a similarly widespread distribution with the vagus—yet zealous surgeons are not hesitating to sever it for a sigh or a hiccup. .. . Do not permit them to do this.

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