The vagus nerve

The vagus nerve is the tenth cranial nerve and the longest of the cranial nerves; its Latin meaning is 'wandering'. The nerve leaves the brain through the neck, into the thorax and abdomen. It supplies most of the muscles of the pharynx and soft palate. The vagus nerve enters the thorax and branches go to the lungs for bronchodilatation, to the oesophagus for peristalsis and to the heart to slow down the heart rate. In the abdomen, branches enter the stomach, pancreas, small intestines, large intestines and the colon for secretion and constriction of smooth muscle. Nerves in the abdomen and thorax join the left and right vagus nerves to ascend beside the left and right common carotid arteries.

The food bolus is churned and mixed with the pepsin and hydrochloric acid to form a thick paste that is called chyme. The mucus-containing food mixture is composed of partially digested foods mixed with the gastric juices. Every few minutes the pyloric sphincter passes a small amount of chyme into the duodenum. It can take between 2 and 4 hours for the stomach to empty.

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