Emily Underwood, ‘Newly detailed nerve links between brain and other organs shape thoughts, memories, and feelings’, https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2021/06/newly-detailed-nerve-links-between-brain-and-other-organs-shape-thoughts-memories-and, ScienceMag.org, American Association for the Advancement of Science – AAAS (Jun. 10, 2021)
For more than 100 years, scientists have known that the vagus nerve carries signals between the organs and the brainstem. As part of the parasympathetic nervous system—active when the body is at ease or recovering from stress—the vagus regulates autonomic functions such as heart rate, breathing, and digestion. But new studies have shown signals carried by vagal fibers climb beyond the brainstem, revealing a broad interoceptive network in the brain that interprets internal changes, anticipates the body’s needs, and sends commands to fulfill them. The network includes brain regions involved in more complex cognition, which means the nerves monitoring the body’s basic workings also respond to—and influence—how we remember, process emotion, and even construct our sense of self. (…) Stimulating the vagus (…) clearly does many things to the body. (…) Many signals are unconscious, and when they do rise to our awareness, they’re often blurry and ambiguous, making it hard for people to report what they’re experiencing. (…) The challenge is finding clear mechanisms.