Nausea and vomiting are among the most frequently occurring symptoms observed by clinicians. While advances have been made in understanding both the physiological as well as the neurophysiological pathways involved in nausea and vomiting, the final common pathway(s) for emesis have yet to be defined. Regardless of the difficulties in elucidating the precise neurocircuitry involved in nausea and vomiting, it has been accepted for over a century that the locus for these neurocircuits encompasses several structures within the medullary reticular formation of the hindbrain and that the role of vagal neurocircuits in particular are of critical importance. The afferent vagus nerve is responsible for relaying a vast amount of sensory information from thoracic and abdominal organs to the central nervous system. Neurons within the nucleus of the tractus solitarius not only receive these peripheral sensory inputs but have direct or indirect connections with several other hindbrain, midbrain and forebrain structures responsible for the co-ordination of the multiple organ systems. The efferent vagus nerve relays the integrated and co-ordinated output response to several peripheral organs responsible for emesis. The important role of both sensory and motor vagus nerves, and the available nature of peripheral vagal afferent and efferent nerve terminals, provides extensive and readily accessible targets for the development of drugs to combat nausea and vomiting.
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