Viva Las Vagus

02023-03-28 | Brain | 1 comment

You know, for 60, 70 years we’ve been studying fight-or-flight physiology. “Oh, we’re wired to fight or flee in life.” You know? And that was a sense of what physiology was — it’s really about self-preservation. And we made progress in understanding cortisol and the amygdala, the threat-related region of the brain, and blood pressure.

From a podcast with Dacher Keltner. (transcript)

They talk about the vagus nerve, only it is pronounced like vegas and I am wondering why would they call this nerve vegas… What does Las Vegas have that could have anything at all to do with this nerve… I kept walking, and listening, and couldn’t figure it out. And this nerve sounded amazing: 

Your body has the vagus nerve. And we call it the autonomic nervous system. There are all these bundles of nerves coming out of your spinal cord that affect blood flow and digestion and muscle contractions and glucose and so forth. And the vagus nerve is part of that system. It’s a mammalian bundle of nerves. It stretches from the top of your spinal cord. It wanders through your heart and lungs and digestive organs.

It ties everything together…

And receives all this information from the microbiome. It is the mind-body nexus. And we just hadn’t studied it. 

And then our lab started to get into the act — that when you feel compassion, the vagus nerve is activated because it slows your heart rate. It opens you up to other people. It allows you to vocalize, it allows you to look at people in the eyes. When we meditate, the vagus nerve is activated.

1 Comment

  1. JaneParham

    Information I will use. I’m just about to begin a long flight to Vienna, Austria, and I will certainly Focus on the good ole vagus nerve through all the hoops and loops!


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