Van Elzakker of the Vagus Nerve Hypothesis for ME/CFS Talks


Founder of Health Rising and Phoenix Rising
Staff member
Check out a interview with the Low Histamine Chef with Michael Van Elzakker on the Vagus Nerve Hypothesis:

Part of it is below


You can have a really small, localized infection, let’s say in the lungs, you’ve got a flu or something. The vagus nerve is very highly branched, so it’s got tiny little branches and tentacles all over your trunk and it’s able to pick up a tiny little signal of cytokines, which are produced. In general, they’re produced very locally. And that little infection is enough to change your subjective experience, to make you feel really tired and sore, give you brain fog and things like that.

The hypothesis is essentially what would happen if one of these pathogens that really like to live in nerve tissue actually infected the thing that’s supposed to detect infection? The idea is that you get an exaggerated signal coming from the vagus nerve, where essentially the brain gets an erroneous signal that the body is extremely sick with viruses and bacteria, even though it’s really about the location of the infection and not the severity of it.


In your hypothesis, do you believe that you’ll find when you start the … What is it that you’ll be doing exactly to prove the hypothesis? What is it that you’re working on?


Right now, we’re doing a study where we’re using a combined MR and PET, so magnetic resonance like when an athlete gets injured, they have an MRI scan. It’s got very good spatial resolution. You can really see clear pictures inside the body and that is combined with PET, or positron emission tomography, in which a research participant or patient is injected with a substance that the machine can detect. What we’re looking for is increased cellular activity in the brain stem in a place called the nucleus of the solitary tract, which is where about 80 percent of these sensory vagus nerve fibers have their cell bodies.

This is essentially the place where the vagus nerve enters the brain. The idea is that if we can see extra signal there, there’s more activity there in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome patients than there is in healthy people, that would be evidence that there’s an exaggerated signal coming from the vagus nerve into the brain.

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