Easier Vagal Nerve Stimulation Via the Ear

August 30, 2016 · Posted in Potential Treatments · Comment 
vagal nerve stimulation

Vagal nerve stimulation is typically delivered via a stimulator in the chest wall.

Vagal nerve stimulation (VNS) is an FDA-approved treatment for seizures and treatment-resistant depression. It typically requires an operation to insert a stimulator in a patient’s chest wall that delivers electrical impulses to their left vagus nerve via electrodes placed on the patient’s neck. New research by Bashar W. Badran and colleagues may have identified a less invasive and less expensive way to stimulate the vagal nerve—via electrodes placed on the ear.

The researchers tested different parameters for vagal nerve stimulation via the ear on 15 healthy volunteers and found that this type of VNS was feasible, tolerable, and reasonably safe. Among the different parameters tested, a stimulation pulse width of 500 microseconds at 25Hz had the greatest effect on heart rate, slowing it by about 4.25 beats per minute compared to a sham treatment.

Next Badran and colleagues plan to study the effects of this type of VNS on brain activity using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).