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glossary - v

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Vagus nerve – the vagus nerves are the 10th pair of cranial nerves (12 pairs of nerves that start in the brain and link to other parts of the body, each with a different function). The vagus nerves ('vagus' means wanderer' in latin) connect to many different parts of the body and passes messages between the brain and various organs, including:

  • the throat (where they connect to the muscles that control swallowing) 
  • the heart (as part of the autonomic nervous system that controls the way the heart works), and 
  • organs in the chest and abdomen (including the stomach and intestine, where they help to control the function of the bladder and bowels, and the lungs).

Most of the nerve fibres of the vagus nerve relay messages from the body to the brain. In this way, the brain receives messages from parts of the body and these messages are, in turn, relayed to different areas within the brain.

Video telemetry – a test which involves having an EEG and being video-taped at the same time. This means that the EEG recording of a seizure can be compared to what is seen happening to the person. This can help to diagnose epilepsy and non-epileptic seizures.

VNS (Vagus Nerve Stimulation) – a type of treatment for epilepsy. It involves having a generator implanted in the chest wall attached to electrical wires around the vagus nerve in the neck. The generator sends regular electrical signals through the vagus nerve into the brain. For some people, this prevents or reduces the brain activity that causes seizures, and can reduce the number, length or severity of seizures they have. It is not known exactly how this works or who will be helped by it.