Cranial Nerve X

This nerve, the vagus, is the most widely distributed cranial nerve, as it provides parasympathetic innervation to many thoracic and abdominal visceral organs from neurons situated in the dorsal motor nucleus of the vagus in the medulla. The vagus nerve also shares many similarities with the glossopharyngeal nerve. Motor fibers of CN X arise from the nucleus ambiguus and innervate most of the muscles of the larynx and pharynx, taste fibers from the epiglottis enter the solitary tract, and somatosensory fibers from the outer ear enter the spinal trigeminal tract. In clinical practice, the gag reflex allows for the simultaneous testing of both the ninth and tenth cranial nerves, as the afferent and efferent limbs of this reflex are mediated by the glossopharyngeal and the vagus nerves, respectively.

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