New Earth Physiology - Activating the Vagus Nerve
originally posted on the Fractal Wanderer
WHAT IS THE VAGUS NERVE?
The 10th of the cranial nerves, it is often called the“Nerve of compassion” because when it’s active, it helps create the “warm-fuzzies” that we feel in our chest when we get a hug or are moved by something...
(Peter Jurek, www.peterjurek.com)
The vagus nerve is a bundle of nerves that originates in the top of the spinal cord. It activates different organs throughout the body (such as the heart, lungs, liver and digestive organs). When active, it is likely to produce that feeling of warm expansion in the chest—for example, when we are moved by someone’s goodness or when we appreciate a beautiful piece of music.
Neuroscientist Stephen W. Porges of the University of Illinois at Chicago long ago argued that the vagus nerve is [the nerve of compassion] (of course, it serves many other functions as well). Several reasons justify this claim. The vagus nerve is thought to stimulate certain muscles in the vocal chamber, enabling communication. It reduces heart rate. Very new science suggests that it may be closely connected to receptor networks for oxytocin, a neurotransmitter involved in trust and maternal bonding.
Our research and that of other scientists suggest that activation of the vagus nerve is associated with feelings of caretaking and the ethical intuition that humans from different social groups (even adversarial ones) share a common humanity. People who have high vagus nerve activation in a resting state, we have found, are prone to feeling emotions that promote altruism—compassion, gratitude, love and happiness.
Arizona State University psychologist Nancy Eisenberg has found that children with high-baseline vagus nerve activity are more cooperative and likely to give. This area of study is the beginning of a fascinating new argument about altruism: that a branch of our nervous system evolved to support such behavior.
STRESS & THE VAGUS NERVE
Your body's levels of stress hormones are regulated by the autonomic nervous system (ANS) . The ANS has two components that balance each other, the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS).
The SNS turns up your nervous system. It helps us handle what we perceive to be emergencies and is in charge of the flight-or-fight response.The PNS turns down the nervous system and helps us to be calm. It promotes relaxation, rest, sleep, and drowsiness by slowing our heart rate, slowing our breathing, constricts the pupils of our eyes, increases the production of saliva in our mouth, and so forth.
The vagus nerve is the nerve that comes from the brain and controls the parasympathetic nervous system, which controls your relaxation response. And this nervous system uses the neurotransmitter, acetylcholine. If your brain cannot communicate with your diaphragm via the release of acetylcholine from the vagus nerve (for example, impaired by botulinum toxin), then you will stop breathing and die.
Acetylcholine is responsible for learning and memory. It is also calming and relaxing, which is used by vagus nerve to send messages of peace and relaxation throughout your body. New research has found that acetylcholine is a major brake on inflammation in the body . In other words, stimulating your vagus nerve sends acetylcholine throughout your body, not only relaxing you but also turning down the fires of inflammation which is related to the negative effects from stress.
Exciting new research has also linked the vagus nerve to improved neurogenesis, increased BDNF output (brain-derived neurotrophic factor is like super fertilizer for your brain cells) and repair of brain tissue, and to actual regeneration throughout the body.
HEALTH, LONGEVITY & AGING
As you get older, your immune system produces more
inflammatory molecules, and your nervous system turns on the
stress response, promoting system breakdown and aging.
That’s not just talk. It’s backed by scientific studies.
For example, Kevin Tracey, the director of the Feinstein
Institute for Medical Research, discovered how the brain
controls the immune system through a direct nerve-based
He describes this as the inflammatory reflex (i). Simply put,
it is the way the immune system responds to the mind.
Let me explain.
You immune system is controlled by a nerve call the vagus
But this isn’t just any nerve.
It is the most important nerve coming from the brain and
travels to all the major organs.
And you can activate this nerve — through relaxation,
meditation, and other ancient practices, such as the Mayan system of Light Language,
combined with Vagus Nerve Activation Techniques given recently by the Group & Steve Rother,
the Vagus Nerve can be activated and worked with energetically through geometry, frequency,
color, and light.
What’s the benefit of that?
Well, by activating the vagus nerve, you can control your
immune cells, reduce inflammation, and even prevent disease
It’s true. By creating positive brain states — as
meditation masters have done for centuries — you can switch
on the vagus nerve and control inflammation.
You can actually control your gene function by this method.
Activate the vagus nerve, and you can switch on the genes
that help control inflammation.
Inflammation is one of the central factors
of disease and aging.
Even more fascinating was the discovery that our bodies can
regenerate at any age.
Diane Krause, MD, PhD, from Yale University discovered that
our own innate adult stem cells (cells that can turn into
any cell in the body from our bone marrow) could be
transformed into liver, bowel, lung, and skin cells. (ii)
This is a phenomenal breakthrough.
It means that we have the power to create new cells and
renew our own organs and tissues at any age.
And how are these stem cells controlled?
You guessed it: the vagus nerve.
For example, Theise et al.  have found that stems cells are directly connected to the vagus nerve. Activating the vagus nerve can stimulate stem cells to produce new cells and repair and rebuild your own organs.
So relaxation — a state of calm, peace, and stillness –
can activate the vagus nerve.
And the vagus nerve, in turn, activates your stem cells to
regenerate and renew your tissues and organs.
RELAXATION & MEDITATION
Scientists have even shown how meditation makes the brain
bigger and better.
They’ve mapped out the brain function of “professional
meditators” by bringing Tibetan lamas trained in
concentration and mental control into the laboratory.
The result? They found higher levels of gamma brain waves
and thicker brain cortexes (the areas associated with higher
brain function) in meditators. (iii)
Relaxation can have other powerful effects on our biology.
In biology, being a complex system that can adapt to its
environment and that is resilient and flexible is critical
The same is true for us.
The more complex and resilient we are, the healthier we are.
Take, for example, our heartbeat.
Its complexity is called heart rate variability (HRV) or
beat-to-beat variability. The more complex your HRV, the
healthier you are. The least complex heart rate is the
worst — a flat line.
So what does this have to do with relaxation?
The HRV is also controlled by the vagus nerve.
As you can see, turning on the relaxation response and
activating that vagus nerve is critical to health.
Activating the Vagus Nerve Will:
* Reduce inflammation
* Help regenerate your organs and cells by activating stem cells
* Increase your heart rate variability
* Thicken your brain (which normally shrinks with aging).
* Boost immune function
* Modulate your nervous system
* Reduce depression and stress
* Enhance performance
* Improve your quality of life
Not bad for just learning to chill out!
COMPASSION & DNA
Elizabeth Blackburn, PhD, who discovered telomeres,
explained that, ultimately, they become so short that the
end of our DNA unravels and we can no longer replicate our
cells, so they die.
Remarkably, mental stress produces a more rapid shortening
of the telomeres — and leads to faster aging.
What’s even more remarkable?
In a study of caregivers of sick patients, the health of the
caregivers’ telomeres was determined by their attitude!
It sounds impossible, but it’s true.
The caregivers who felt the care to be a burden had shorter
telomeres, while those who saw their work as an opportunity
to be compassionate had no shortening. (iv)
Tthe Dalai Lama said that the seat of compassion
is actually biological and — necessary for survival.
Perhaps the development of compassion and wisdom in coping
with unfavorable life conditions is the true key to
It just may be that working to understand our true nature
through the cultivation of our minds and hearts with
positive practices like meditation or similar techniques is
critical to health and longevity.
The ways we can change our bodies through changing our minds
is not longer a theory.
There is a new scientific language to understand how the
qualities of the mind control the body through effects on
the vagus nerve, immune cells, stem cells, telomeres, DNA,
Remember, your body has all the resources and infinitely
adaptable systems to self-regulate, repair, regenerate, and
You simply have to learn how to work with your body, rather
than against it. Then you can have a healthy, thriving life
– and live out your full lifespan, which can be as high as
But here’s something even cooler – the research that Dacher Ketlner, director of the Social Interaction Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley is doing shows that stimulating that vagus nerve is not only good for you – it’s good for the planet!“Our research and that of other scientists suggest that activation of the vagus nerve is associated with feelings of caretaking and the ethical intuition that humans from different social groups (even adversarial ones) share a common humanity. People who have high vagus nerve activation in a resting state, we have found, are prone to feeling emotions that promote altruism – compassion, gratitude, love and happiness.”There you go. Do it for love.
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