Dorsal vagal nucleus

Last revised by Craig Hacking on 13 Oct 2022

The dorsal vagal nucleus, also known as the vagal nucleusdorsal nucleus of the vagus nerve or the dorsal motor nucleus of the vagus nerve, is a elongated nucleus within the medulla oblongata that provides parasympathetic motor innervation to the viscera of the thorax and abdomen. It is the largest parasympathetic nucleus in the brainstem.

Gross anatomy

The dorsal vagal nuclei are paired nuclei located in the medial aspect of the dorsal medulla either side of the midline. They are the most dorsal of the medullary nuclei, forming the vagal trigone in the floor of the fourth ventricle at its most rostral extent. Caudally the nuclei extend into the first cervical spinal segment.

It lies dorsal and lateral to the hypoglossal nucleus and dorsal and medial to the nucleus ambiguus.


The nucleus houses cell bodies of the preganglionic parasympathetic motor fibers of the vagus nerve, innervating numerous viscera of the thorax and abdomen including the:

In addition, there are secretomotor fibers for glands of the stomach.

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Cases and figures

  • Figure 3: brainstem nuclei: dorsal section - Gray's anatomy illustration
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  • Figure 2: medulla and vagus nerve
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