Functional anatomy of the vagus system: how does the polyvagal theory comply?

Author: Winfried L Neuhuber1, Hans-Rudolf Berthoud2
1 Institute of Anatomy and Cell Biology, Friedrich-Alexander-Universität, Krankenhausstrasse 9, Erlangen, Germany. Electronic address:
2 Neurobiology of Nutrition & Metabolism Department, Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Louisiana State University System, 6400 Perkins Road, Baton Rouge, LA 70808, USA. Electronic address:
Conference/Journal: Biol Psychol
Date published: 2022 Sep 10
Other: Special Notes: doi: 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2022.108425. , Word Count: 138

Due to its pivotal role in autonomic networks and interoception, the vagus attracts continued interest from both basic scientists and therapists of various clinical disciplines. In particular, the widespread use of heart rate variability as an index of autonomic cardiac control and a proposed central role of the vagus in biopsychological concepts, e.g., the polyvagal theory, provide a good opportunity to recall basic features of vagal anatomy. In addition to the "classical" vagal brainstem nuclei, i.e., dorsal motor nucleus, nucleus ambiguus and nucleus tractus solitarii, the spinal trigeminal and paratrigeminal nuclei come into play as targets of vagal afferents. On the other hand, the nucleus of the solitary tract receives and integrates not only visceral but also somatic afferents.

Keywords: Dorsal motor nucleus; central connections; nucleus ambiguus; nucleus tractus solitarii; polyvagal theory.

PMID: 36100134 DOI: 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2022.108425