Epilepsy: Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS)

What Is Vagus Nerve Stimulation?

Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) is a technique used to treat epilepsy. It involves implanting a pacemaker-like device that generates pulses of electricity to stimulate the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is one of the 12 cranial nerves, the paired nerves that attach to the undersurface of the brain and relay information to and from the brain. Cranial nerve fibers conduct impulses between the brain and other parts of the brain and various body structures, mostly in the head and neck. The vagus nerve - the longest of the cranial nerves - also extends to organs in the chest and abdomen. (The word vagus comes from a Latin word for "wandering.')

Some cranial nerves bring information from the senses (like touch or sight) to the brain (sensory) and some control muscles (motor). Other cranial nerves, like the vagus, have both motor and sensory functions. The vagus nerve serves many organs and structures, including the larynx (voice box), lungs, heart and gastrointestinal tract.

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