Vagus Nerve Stimulation

A new study by researchers from UT Dallas uses vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) technology to treat individuals recovering from stroke. The technology involves sending a mild electric pulse through the vagus nerve, located in the neck, and has already been approved by the FDA to treat illnesses like depression and epilepsy.

To date, the sample sizes for clinical trials have been rather small, but the initial results are promising.

The electric pulse stimulates the nerve and relays information to the brain about the body’s condition, encouraging a process called neural plasticity.

VNS Experimental Therapy.

The researchers were able to demonstrated that VNS treatment is safe for individuals recovering from stroke. Co-author and professor of neuroscience, Michael Kilgard says in the press release, “This ‘first-in-humans’ study appears to demonstrate improvement in the recovery that stroke patients make. This was a small study and there is more work to be done, but this is an exciting result.”

The study took six weeks and involved 20 stroke patients, all suffering arm weakness as a result of stroke. These patients separated between those who were receiving rehabilitation therapy and those also undergoing the same therapy along with VNS therapy.

Patients receiving only rehabilitation improved by three points on the Fugi-Meyer assessment scale. Those undergoing rehabilitation and VNS improved by nine points.

“This study demonstrates that vagus nerve stimulation appears to improve the recovery that stroke patients make. VNS is triggered on successful movements to solidify gains that are made during physical therapy,” says Kilgard.

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