There are 4 major nuclei for the vagus nerve: the motor fibres originate in the nucleus ambiguous in the medulla; the special sensory (taste) fibers originate in the solitary nucleus; the parasympathetic output to the viscera originates from the dorsal nucleus of the vagus nerve; and somatic sensory fibers originate from the spinal trigeminal nucleus. The vagus nerve exits the skull through the jugular foramen.
CN X monitors aortic arch chemoreceptors and baroreceptors and it is responsible for taste from the epiglottic region.
CN X helps regulate respiratory drive via aortic chemoreceptors and heart rate via aortic baroreceptors (only responds to increased blood pressure not decreased). Heart rate is also controlled since the vagus supplies parasympathetic innervation of the heart through innervation of the sinoatrial node.
A pharyngeal branch of CN X is responsible for taste from the epiglottic region.
Clinical testing of the vagus nerve is via assessment of motor functions such as swallowing, palate elevation, and maintenance of a midline uvula.
CN X is responsible for swallowing along with CN IX.
A pharyngeal branch of CN X supplies the muscles of the palate.
The recurrent laryngeal nerve, a branch of CN X, is responsible for muscle movements in the mouth that allow for speech.
If a patient cannot cough it suggests damage to laryngeal function.
The vagus nerve maintains a midline uvula. If there is damage, the uvula deviates away from the side of the lesion.
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