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Vagus Nerve Stimulation & PTSD, among others

Discussion in 'General Discussion Subforum' started by JanAtheCPA, Jul 2, 2023.

  1. JanAtheCPA

    JanAtheCPA Beloved Grand Eagle

    These are some limited excerpts from a new article in National Geographic . What I find interesting is that this article talks about a device, but we know that there are breathing exercises for vagus nerve stimulation, which are specifically designed to reduce anxiety, so as you read this article, don't think about the device (which isn't even available to the public and probably won't be affordable or covered by insurance) but think instead about the therapeutic breathing techniques. Then go do a web search on Vagus Nerve Breathing Techniques, or just read this article:
    https://www.tenpercent.com/meditationweeklyblog/how-to-not-make-stress-worse (How to Not Make Stress Worse — Ten Percent Happier)

    Here's the link to the full NG article, but you might hit a paywall: A partial solution for migraines and PTSD? This approach offers hope. (nationalgeographic.com)

    Published in National Geographic (excerpts only, from a much longer article. I inserted ................... where I left out text )

    A partial solution for migraines and PTSD? This approach offers hope.
    JUNE 28, 2023

    From drug-resistant depression to migraines and stroke recovery to various types of inflammation, vagus nerve stimulation—electrical stimulation of nerves in the neck—is being tested as a treatment for dozens of conditions.

    In the brave new world of bioelectronic medicine, mounting evidence suggests that stimulating the brain by sending mild pulses of electrical energy through the vagus nerve in the neck may help relieve symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, which is notoriously difficult to treat.

    Unlike some vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) devices that are surgically implanted, transcutaneous VNS (tcVNS), which is used for PTSD, is noninvasive and painless: the device is simply held against the side of the neck, or the ear, and electrical stimulation is delivered through the skin. Already, the clinical trial results have been so promising that in 2022, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted gammaCore—a non-invasive, handheld vagus nerve stimulator—designation as “a breakthrough device” for the treatment of PTSD; it is already used for the treatment of cluster and migraine headaches.

    How vagus nerve stimulation works
    The vagus nerve helps regulate digestion, heart rate, respiration as well as vasomotor activity and certain reflexive actions like sneezing or coughing.

    Vagus nerve stimulation was initially approved in 1997 as an adjunct therapy for drug-resistant epilepsy. Since then, the Food and Drug Administration has approved it to treat drug-resistant depression, cluster headache, migraine, and stroke recovery. It is also being investigated as a treatment for other neurologic and inflammatory conditions.

    There are two vagus nerves, one on the left and one on the right side of the neck. They are part of the parasympathetic nervous system, often called the “rest and digest” system because it helps the body relax after periods of stress, or danger, and regulates bodily functions such as digestion and heart rate. The vagus nerves also serve as a bridge between the brain and peripheral organs and play a crucial role in memory, emotion, and pain, among other bodily functions.

    In PTSD, the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the fight-or-flight response, becomes chronically overactivated, explains Bremner. Also, “in PTSD, when people experience stress, they have an exaggerated release of inflammatory markers, especially cytokines which go into the brain and have behavioral effects.”

    A study in a 2022 issue of Molecular Psychiatry found that other inflammatory markers—namely, C-reactive protein, interleukin 6, and tumor necrosis factor—were also significantly increased in people with PTSD, compared to people without the disorder.

    Stimulating the vagus nerve with electrical pulses activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which then “blocks the sympathetic [nervous system] response, reducing heart rate, respiration rate, and blood pressure, and the inflammatory response to stress that occurs with PTSD,” Bremner notes. Indeed, a study in a 2020 issue of the journal Neurobiology of Stress found that using tcVNS calms the overactivity of the sympathetic nervous system that occurs during traumatic memories and mental stress in people with PTSD.

    A step in the right direction
    It’s unlikely that VNS can relieve all the symptoms that are associated with PTSD and it’s not viewed as a potential cure. It’s most likely to help with symptoms of hyper-arousal, hyper-vigilance, heightened anxiety, and insomnia, experts say.

    And people with autonomic anxiety symptoms—related to the fight-or-flight response—such as upset stomach, nausea, abdominal pain, a rapid heart rate, or dry mouth would be good candidates for VNS, Bremner says.

    “Wherever you stimulate the vagus nerve, it’s having beneficial effects,” says Bremner. “VNS also promotes cognition and memory function and reduces withdrawal symptoms in people who are addicted to opioids. I think this could make a big difference for people with PTSD.”​
  2. JaneSandyJane

    JaneSandyJane Peer Supporter

    eh, pass on this device -- though I don't have any migraine symptoms left to treat!
    But I do like the breath work in the article you linked to, Jan!! I think that's a really important part of meditation. Does that device treat symptoms or prevents them? I think I saw one device like that in one of those travel catalogues.

    I think people should always try everything possible to get well
    Thanks for sharing - was interesting to read :)
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2023

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