Posts Tagged Vagus nerve

[VIDEO] Ellie Drake shows you how to stimulate your Vagus Nerve with THIS Breath! – YouTube

Ellie Drake shares the importance of the Parasympathetic Nervous System and its essential role in supporting you to thrive regardless of your circumstances. Plus learn about the Vagus nerve, your highly intellectual partner in creating inner ease. Learn a simple breathing technique that stimulates the Vagus nerve and supports you to live a more vivacious life! Ellie Drake is a Visionary, Doctor and Entrepreneur. Through her videos and interviews, she shares the Art and Science of Thriving Personally and Professionally. Her most recent course teaches the road map to becoming a Confident Communicator. To learn more about Ellie go to


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[WEB PAGE] Vagus Nerve Overview

What is the vagus nerve?

There are 12 cranial nerves in the body. They come in pairs and help to link the brain with other areas of the body, such as the head, neck, and torso.

Some send sensory information, including details about smells, sights, tastes, and sounds, to the brain. These nerves are known as having sensory functions. Other cranial nerves control the movement of various muscles and the function of certain glands. These are known as motor functions.

While some cranial nerves have either sensory or motor functions, others have both. The vagus nerve is such a nerve. The cranial nerves are classified using Roman numerals based off of their location. The vagus nerve is also called cranial nerve X.

Vagus nerve anatomy and function

The word “vagus” means wandering in Latin. This is a very appropriate name, as the vagus nerve is the longest cranial nerve. It runs all the way from the brain stem to part of the colon.

The sensory functions of the vagus nerve are divided into two components:

  • Somatic components. These are sensations felt on the skin or in the muscles.
  • Visceral components. These are sensations felt in the organs of the body.

Sensory functions of the vagus nerve include:

  • providing somatic sensation information for the skin behind the ear, the external part of the ear canal, and certain parts of the throat
  • supplying visceral sensation information for the larynx, esophagus, lungs, trachea, heart, and most of the digestive tract
  • playing a small role in the sensation of taste near the root of the tongue

Motor functions of the vagus nerve include:

  • stimulating muscles in the pharynx, larynx, and the soft palate, which is the fleshy area near the back of the roof of the mouth
  • stimulating muscles in the heart, where it helps to lower resting heart rate
  • stimulating involuntary contractions in the digestive tract, including the esophagus, stomach, and most of the intestines, which allow food to move through the tract
Vagus nerve diagram

Explore the interactive 3-D diagram below to learn more about the vagus nerve.

Vagus nerve testing

To test the vagus nerve, a doctor may check the gag reflex. During this part of the examination, the doctor may use a soft cotton swab to tickle the back of the throat on both sides. This should cause the person to gag. If the person doesn’t gag, this may be due to a problem with the vagus nerve.

Vagus nerve problems

Nerve damage

Damage to the vagus nerve can have a range of symptoms because the nerve is so long and affects many areas.

Potential symptoms of damage to the vagus nerve include:

  • difficulty speaking or loss of voice
  • a voice that is hoarse or wheezy
  • trouble drinking liquids
  • loss of the gag reflex
  • pain in the ear
  • unusual heart rate
  • abnormal blood pressure
  • decreased production of stomach acid
  • nausea or vomiting
  • abdominal bloating or pain

The symptoms someone might have depend on what part of the nerve is damaged.


Experts believe that damage to the vagus nerve may also cause a condition called gastroparesis. This condition affects the involuntary contractions of the digestive system, which prevents the stomach from properly emptying.

Symptoms of gastroparesis include:

  • nausea or vomiting, especially vomiting undigested food hours after eating
  • loss of appetite or feeling full shortly after starting a meal
  • acid reflux
  • abdominal pain or bloating
  • unexplained weight loss
  • fluctuations in blood sugar

Some people develop gastroparesis after undergoing a vagotomy procedure, which removes all or part of the vagus nerve.

Vasovagal syncope

Sometimes the vagus nerve overreacts to certain stress triggers, such as:

  • exposure to extreme heat
  • fear of bodily harm
  • the sight of blood or having blood drawn
  • straining, including trying to having a bowel movement
  • standing for a long time

Remember, the vagus nerve stimulates certain muscles in the heart that help to slow heart rate. When it overreacts, it can cause a sudden drop in heart rate and blood pressure, resulting in fainting. This is known as vasovagal syncope.

Vagus nerve stimulation

Vagus nerve stimulation involves placing a device in the body that uses electrical impulses to simulate the nerve. It’s used to treat some cases of epilepsy and depression that don’t respond to other treatments.

The device is usually placed under the skin of the chest, where a wire connects it to the left vagus nerve. Once the device is activated, it sends signals through the vagus nerve to your brainstem, which then transmits information to your brain. A neurologist usually programs the device, but people often receive a handheld magnet they can use to control the device on their own as well.

It’s thought that vagus nerve stimulation could help to treat a range of other conditions in the future, including multiple sclerosisTrusted SourceAlzheimer’s disease,Trusted Source and cluster headacheTrusted Sources.

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[Abstract + References] Vagus Nerve Stimulation Paired With Upper-Limb Rehabilitation After Stroke: One-Year Follow-up


Background. Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) paired with rehabilitation may improve upper-limb impairment and function after ischemic stroke. 

Objective. To report 1-year safety, feasibility, adherence, and outcome data from a home exercise program paired with VNS using long-term follow-up data from a randomized double-blind study of rehabilitation therapy paired with Active VNS (n = 8) or Control VNS (n = 9). 

Methods. All people were implanted with a VNS device and underwent 6 weeks in clinic therapy with Control or Active VNS followed by home exercises through day 90. Thereafter, participants and investigators were unblinded. The Control VNS group then received 6 weeks in-clinic Active VNS (Cross-VNS group). All participants then performed an individualized home exercise program with self-administered Active VNS. Data from this phase are reported here. Outcome measures were Fugl-Meyer Assessment—Upper Extremity (FMA-UE), Wolf Motor Function Test (Functional and Time), Box and Block Test, Nine-Hole Peg Test, Stroke Impact Scale, and Motor Activity Log. 

Results. There were no VNS treatment–related serious adverse events during the long-term therapy. Two participants discontinued prior to receiving the full crossover VNS. On average, participants performed 200 ± 63 home therapy sessions, representing device use on 57.4% of home exercise days available for each participant. Pooled analysis revealed that 1 year after randomization, the FMA-UE score increased by 9.2 points (95% CI = 4.7 to 13.7; P = .001; n = 15). Other functional measures were also improved at 1 year. 

Conclusions. VNS combined with rehabilitation is feasible, with good long-term adherence, and may improve arm function after ischemic stroke.


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[WEB SITE] Hack Your Vagus Nerve to Feel Better: 14 Easy Ways

By Victoria Albina

For folks with symptoms ranging from fatigue to depression and anxiety, digestive issues from IBS to SIBO to IBD, to brain fog and even food sensitivities, the Vagus Nerve almost always plays an important role in both sickness and healing, and needs to be supported so you can truly and deeply heal.

Hack your Vagus Nerve

What is the vagus nerve?

• Vagus means “wanderer” in Latin, and the vagus nerve wanders from the brain through most of the body.
• The vagus is the longest of the cranial nerves. It starts in the brain, where it sends signals to the cells there. It then wanders through the body, from the brain through the neck and throat to the heart and lungs. The vagus moves down to the gut and digestive organs – liver, pancreas, gallbladder – and all the way through to the kidneys and to the uterus.
• Signals are constantly flowing from the brain to the body and back from the body to the brain, via the vagus nerve.
• Vagus nerve “tone” is key, and activates the parasympathetic nervous system. The“rest and digest” system, and improved vagal tone supports your body and mind in relaxing faster after stress.
• Studies have shown that there is a positive feedback loop between vagus tone, optimal physical health and positive emotions. That is, the more you support your vagus nerve and improve tone, the better you’ll feel overall.

Think about a Technical Knockout (TKO) punch in boxing – it’s a straight shot to the vagus nerve. Because this nerve goes through most of the body and enervates, or gives nerve activity to, so much of the body, a strike to it knocks you out cold. The body is very protective of the vagus nerve. Any alteration in the normal, pre-programmed flow can lead to big changes downstream in the body.

Some folks with constipation or those with hard or large stools can experience body-wide symptoms resulting from pressure on the vagus nerve – cold sweats, anxiety, tingling in hands and feet, and more – all from a really hard stool! I had a patient once who would frequently literally pass out from a large, hard bowel movement. Which goes to show how much having the correct vagus signaling effects our bodies. (she’s better now, by the way.  She had really intense methane SIBO, which we tested for, found and treated. No more unconsciousness on the bathroom floor, thank goodness)

Some common symptoms of Vagus Nerve Dysregulation:

• Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
• Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)
• Depression
• Anxiety
• Chronic Fatigue
• High or Low Heart Rate
• Difficulty Swallowing
• Insomnia or trouble sleeping
• Gasteroparesis, also known as delayed gastric emptying
• Heartburn, reflux, gastritis or GERD
• Dizziness/Fainting
• B12 Deficiency
• Chronic Inflammation
• Weight regulation issues (1)

Fight or Flight: Lion-Based Consciousness

There are two important nervous systems in our bodies: the sympathetic, or “fight or flight” and the parasympathetic or “rest and digest.”

The vagus nerve is part of the parasympathetic system. This is the system that supports us in chilling out, centering, calming ourselves, as well as digesting our food, having a healthy reproductive system, and healing.

Back in the day, humans had to keep a constant and vigilant eye out for lions. We had to hide from, run from, possibly fight, lose to and get eaten by, lions. Our bodies are pros at Lion-Based Consciousness. And when we’re on high alert for predators, our bodies are in “fight or flight” or sympathetic dominance. In that state, the vagus nerve is neither giving nor getting the signals it needs to do its job properly, and to support us as we attempt to rest and digest.

Studies show that there aren’t a lot of lions hunting the average American these days.  The percentage of Americans, both urban and rural, reporting actually encountering a lion during the course of their day has dropped precipitously since the recent closing of Barnum & Bailey Circus. Meanwhile, our bodies haven’t caught up to the fact that the little stressors of daily life aren’t likely to lead to us being killed and eaten, and these big and little stressors keep your vagus nerve from signaling optimally. Modern life for the average human is full of imaginary lions, stressors that keep our bodies out of optimal balance, and full of inflammatory chemicals.

Let’s Talk Digestion and the Vagus Nerve

When vagus function is out of whack, digestion is out of whack. Symptoms can include heartburn or GERD, IBD or inflammatory bowel disease like ulcerative colitis, and can prevent the body from healing Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO), a frequent root cause of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).

The vagus nerve is part of the system that tells the stomach to put out digestive acids and juices, and to start the movement of the gut. When we chew our food, we start the process of mixing the fibers in our food with the digestive acids and enzymes that begin to break food down, before it reaches the stomach, before flowing into the small and then large intestines.

When the vagus nerve isn’t getting or sending the right signals, the flow of food-mixed-with-acid through the gut is slowed. This means that overgrowths of bacteria, yeast or parasites — as well as used up hormones and toxins that the body worked to eliminate from the body — are moving through the gut at a slower rate. IBS and SIBO risk are increased with more exposure to bacteria, waste products,potentially  worsening any infections present. Exposure to more hormones than your body had planned on can throw hormones out of balance (discussed further below).

Vagus Nerve, MMC and SIBO

In the case of Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) the migrating motor complex (MMC) in the gut is not behaving optimally.

I like to think of the MMC as the caboose of a little train moving through our intestines. You eat, and the chewed up food, combined with digestive acids and enzymes, is loaded onto a car on the train, to be moved through your body and out as stool. Every time you eat, the train has to stop and go back to the top of the tracks to pick up the new food.

Several things can stop the train. Reduced vagus nerve firing is a major contributor to MMC dysregulation. Snacking is another one for sure. The train should move all the way through from Central Station, the place right after your stomach (the duodenum) through to its final stop downtown, the anus.

This should be a one-way trip, and the train should leave the station and get to the end of the road every 90-120 minutes. Every time you snack, the train has to stop and go back to pick up this new food-passenger, slowing the movement of food through your digestive track, which can lead to bacterial overgrowth and increased toxin burden in the body.

The MMC can also get derailed or confused by trauma, stress, and other life factors, to be discussed in depth in further articles.

Low Stomach Acid

Folks with IBS, heartburn, reflux and other digestive issues often have low stomach acid, and this too can be a vagus nerve issue. The vagus nerve prompts the cells in the stomach to release histamine, which helps the body to release the stomach acid you need to break down your food.

Low B12 Levels Can Make You Feel Terrible

Many people with chronic digestive concerns also have low B12 levels, which is often due, in part, to not having enough vagus stimulation of the parietal cells in the gut, which leads to low intrinsic factor. Intrinsic factor is the chemical that processes B12 in the stomach, and the cells that release it can be hurt or even killed by eating foods we’re sensitive or allergic to or by having untreated heartburn, gut infections or inflammation.

The function of these cells can be slowed by inappropriate vagus nerve stimulation – if the gut isn’t getting the “All Systems Go” signal from the brain, why would your stomach use all that energy to make B12?

Low B12 levels are linked to fatigue, depression, anxiety, memory problems and dementia, nerve problems such as numbness or tingling, weakness in muscles, GI symptoms such as constipation, gas, diarrhea or lack of appetite.

Let’s Talk Hormones and Lions

I want to go back to talking about Lions here – both real and imagined.

When the vagus nerve is over or under-active, the brain’s hypothalamus isn’t signaling the brain’s pituitary gland appropriately, and the downstream signal to the adrenal glands gets confused. This system is known as the HPA Axis, and when this communication is effected, several hormones can get over- or under-produced (CRH, ACTH and cortisol). This can be part of the set of symptoms commonly referred to as “Adrenal Fatigue.” While that name is not exactly scientifically correct, it’s a useful shorthand for chronic exhaustion or hyper-stimulation leading to anxiety, insomnia and just generally feeling revved up.

That is to say:  your body can get triggered into thinking either that All The Lions Are Chasing You Always, or that there is not a single lion out there in the world, nothing to run from, nothing to do, why bother being awake and present to the lion-free world… This can lead to a combination of fatigue, lack of motivation, anxiety, insomnia and generally, a case of the blahs. Vagus nerve stimulation plays a role in helping the body understand when a situation is a True Lion, and when it’s just your boss being your boss, or a looming deadline that feels like doom.

Let’s Talk Circadian Rhythm

A very modern problem that I see daily in my patients is an alteration in circadian rhythm, or our body’s natural sleep/wake signaling. Part of this problem is that most of us have limited activity during the day – we take the subway or car to work, sit for 8-10 hours, car or subway home. We don’t see the sun during our work day, and then sit in front of blue lights at night, such as our phones, television, tablets and computers, which actually tell our brains that its daytime. The blue light that is part of every screen we use mimics the sun, which tells our bodies that it’s time to be awake (and that the lions are awake too), and that our pineal glands in our brains shouldn’t put out melatonin.

I know how tempting it is to check social media before bed, and I know I’m not gaining any fans by urging you to read a paper book before bed… but there are few things your body wants more.

The vagus nerve transmits signals from the circadian control center in the brain, and the effect of circadian dysregulation goes in both directions. Interrupting circadian flow affects the brain, and changes in normal melatonin and other hormone levels before bed can lead to problems with the vagus nerve, which then affects the rest of your body. Furthermore, the circadian control center in the brain sends signals to your digestive system and lungs to produce mucin, the substance that keeps your vital organs healthy and well-lubricated, but only if it’s getting the right signals to do so.

How can regaining appropriate Vagus Nerve Stimulation help you?

It’s simple: when you get your vagus nerve back in proper working order, all the systems listed are free to work optimally. The overall function of your heart, lungs, digestion, reproductive and hormone systems can all be improved by optimizing vagus nerve function.

How to start reengaging the vagus nerve:  it’s simple, easy and fun!

Pick one or two things to start adding to your daily routine – start simple, and see if stimulating the vagus nerve can become part of your health care habits!

1. Sing. Loudly! Not a quiet hum, but a full on, top of your lungs good ole sing along. I recommend the shower for this one.

  • The muscles in the back of your throat activate the vagus nerve as they move, so sing as loud as possible. Don’t worry about the neighbors. (2)
  • Oxytocin, the calming hormone released at birth is also released when we sing. (3)

2. Gargle. You can use regular filtered water for this. I’m a lover of efficiency, so I do this in the shower too. I have a water filter on my shower (I like Berkey brand so I can trust that the water I’m gargling is clean and the chlorine has been removed (which my hair and skin and lungs thank me for, too). Once that conditioner is in my hair and doing it’s magic, I gargle like a full-on Muppet. Not a discreet, elegant gargle – the gargle of a small-and-friendly monster.

  • You want to gargle hard enough that your eyes start to water
  • The added benefit of this is that it makes me laugh, and laughter is amazing medicine! (4, 5, 6) In this case, laughter stimulates the vagus nerve too. Laughter increases beta-endorphins and nitric oxide and benefits the vascular system. (7, 8)
  • It’s a win win win. And my hair looks Amazing.

3. Build in some daily prayer and meditation, especially chanting. Try an ommm or two. It may feel silly or weird at first, but it’s good for your health and wellness, as what vibrates the throat stimulates the vagus nerve. It frankly doesn’t matter what you chant, just get to it.

  • I love to think about all the things that humans have done since time immemorial because they were just the things that we did. Most religions have some sort of chanting, singing, meditation – from the Rosary to Buddhist chanting to Pagan spiral song to the rhythmic prayer of Judaism. Atheist or just not down with religion? That’s cool. Try chanting whatever noise feels good for you.
  • I try to channel my toddler nephews – they’ll take any opportunity to make ridiculous noises and to chant what sounds like nonsense any chance they can – they have an inherent kiddo wisdom that helps their little bodies as they grow and learn. Close the bathroom door, gargle, sing the praises of the Universe or just make loud silly noises. It’s surprisingly freeing…

4. Expose yourself to cold water or air. The vagus nerve is stimulated when the body is exposed to cold. The sympathetic fight/flight system is downregulated (works less) and the parasympathetic rest/digest system is upregulated, or asked to work more to calm you.

  • I splash my face with cold water every morning, and at the end of a shower I turn the water as cold as it will go for as long as I can stand it. I started with 2 seconds, and am working up to 2 minutes. (9) Or you can start slowly by putting your face in ice cold water for a few seconds.
  • In the winter, I like to open a window in the morning to both greet the day and to get a blast of cold air for just a few seconds.

5. Do yoga. Both the parasympathetic nervous system and the vagus nerve are stimulated by yoga practice, particularly the Sun Salutation. (10,11)

  • A study that compared a group of people who walked daily to those doing yoga daily found a significant reduction in anxiety and perceived stress in the yoga group, as well as increases in the mood-improving, anti-anxiety brain chemical GABA. (12)

6. Meditate. Meditation and deep breathing stimulate the vagus nerve. (13, 14, 15)

  • Whatever meditation works best for you is the best kind to do – some folks like a guided meditation, some like to focus on the breath, taking 5-10 deep, slow belly breaths. It doesn’t matter what you choose, as long as you make a daily habit of doing at least 2 minutes of meditation every day.

7. Breathe Deeply and Slowly. There are neurons in both the heart and the neck that contain baroreceptors, or cells that monitor your blood pressure, and send signals back and forth with your brain.

  • When we take deep, slow belly breaths, we activate the vagus nerve to lower fight or flight, and activate our rest and digest parasympathetic nervous system, thus lowering heartrate, blood pressure and feeling of anxiety. (16)
  • On average, we take 10 to 14 breaths per minute – but to stimulate the vagus nerve, try to take only 6 breaths per minute. Breathe in deeply, allowing your stomach to expand, then breathe out very slowly. (17)

8. Serotonin and 5HTP. The neurotransmitter chemical Serotonin activates the vagus nerve through a variety of different receptors in the brain, gut and throughout the body. When there is inflammation in the gut, the amount of serotonin made in the brain is reduced via the quinolate pathway.

  • The best way to support optimal brain-body chemistry is start by understanding what is going on in your gut. We can use advanced functional medicine stool and breath tests to evaluate the gut microbiome to see what may be causing inflammation for you. This is something I do for all my patients, especially those with digestive issues, depression, anxiety, skin concerns, hormone imbalances or sleep issues.
  • Taking the serotonin precursor 5HTP can help with systemic serotonin support. This supplement can interact with some medications, so be sure to talk with your licensed healthcare provider before starting 5HTP!

9. Add in Prebiotic and Probiotic foods and supplements. The term “gut microbiome” refers to the millions of bacteria in our digestive track, which play a role in nutrient absorption, mood, hormone and neurotransmitter balance to name a few vital functions. The health of our microbiome is a huge determinant of our overall health.

  • The vagus nerve is the great connector between the brain and the enteric nervous system, which controls digestion and the gut. Our microbiome plays an important role in making this signaling work.
  • Specifically, the probiotic bacterial strain Lactobacillus rhamnosus was shown in animal studies to support optimal levels of the receptors of the calming chemical GABA, which is mediated by the vagus nerve. (18)
  • For more on fermented foods, check out these recipes (sauerkraut, beet kvass) for affordable probiotics you can make at home.
  • Prebiotics, food for the colon cells, are found in fibrous vegetables. Aim for 6 or more servings of a variety of vegetables each day to optimize the health of your gut, microbiome, colon and vagus nerve.

10. Exercise. When we move, the digestive system is stimulated, and the parastaltic wave which moves stool through the colon is also activated.

  • This movement is controlled in part by the vagus nerve, which is also stimulated by exercise, from walking to yoga to crossfit.
  • Whatever exercise or movement works for you is the right thing to start with. Try to get some gentle movement daily! (19)

11. Acupuncture. Humans have been stimulating the vagus nerve with acupuncture for ages, and there are several commonly used points which stimulate improved vagus function. (20) Studies show that auricular or ear acupuncture is particularly stimulating for the vagus nerve. (21) (22)

12. Eat fish! Studies show that comsuming omega 3 fatty acids (like those found in fatty fish like salmon) increases vagal tone and activity and puts us into that calming parasympathetic mode more often. (23) I recommend eating small fish, as they have fewer heavy metals in them.

13. Get a massage. Massaging different parts of the body, especially the feet or along the carotid sinus (on the ride side of your neck), which you can do on your own for free, can also stimulate the vagus nerve. Massage is often used to get newborn babies to gain weight because it stimulates their vagus nerves, thereby increasing their gut function. (24)

14. Try Intermittent Fasting. Research shows that fasting may increase vagal tone as well. Fasting may sound intimidating but it is easily accomplished by simply eating dinner around 6-7pm and then not eating again until breakfast at 7 or 8am – that’s a 13-14 hour fast right there! Or you can compress your eating into an 8-10 hour window, say 9am-7pm, for an even longer fast. (25)

There are many different ways to stimulate your vagus nerve. choose 2-3 things that work for you, and make them daily habits by tying them to things you do anyway. If you brush your teeth daily, gargle before or after. If you heat water for coffee or tea daily, hum or sing to yourself while you do it. Make new habits simple, and you’ll integrate them with ease.

The beneficial effects of increased vagal nerve function are so far-reaching that it is more than worthwhile for all of us to add some of these new habits into our daily lives.

Imagine feeling more calm and centered – stimulating your vagus nerve is a great place to start. Choose one or two of these options and start today!


via Hack Your Vagus Nerve to Feel Better: 14 Easy Ways – Victoria Albina

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[WEB PAGE] How to Naturally Stimulate Vagus Nerve to Stop Migraines, Inflammation and Depression!

Naturally Stimulate Vagus Nerve

You may have already heard of the vagus nerve in one of your school biology lessons.

It’s the longest nerve in your body and is found right behind where you feel for your pulse.

One of 12 cranial nerves, this super nerve starts in the brainstem and runs all the way to your abdomen, cutting through your heart, esophagus and your lungs.

Known as “cranial nerve X”, the nerve is part of your involuntary nervous system, the system that directs your unconscious body activity, such as keeping your heart rate stable and ensuring you digest food properly. It tells the body to heal itself, essentially.

The nerve moves around your body (like a vagabone, hence the name) sending out tiny fibres to your organs, such as your heart, lungs, liver, pancreas, and intestines. The vagus nerve is essentially controlling your parasympathetic nervous system, responsible for stimulating your “rest and digest” activities.

But the most interesting thing about the vagus nerve is the new research that has revealed its link with treating chronic inflammation, which can lead to high blood pressure, digestive issues, and migraines. Known as the missing link, the nerve may be able to treat these issues without medication! Here’s how:

Vagal Tone

Vagal tone is the control the vagus nerve has over your heart rate. Recent studies have revealed that vagal tone is important in order to activate the parasympathetic nervous system. By tracking your heart rate in addition to your breathing rate your vagal tone can be measured in a person.

When you breathe in your heart usually speeds up slightly, and when you breathe out your heart rate slows down a little. To determine your vagal tone, you need to establish the difference between your inhalation heart rate and your exhalation heart rate. The bigger the difference, the higher your vagal tone will be.

High or low?

Having a higher vagal tone is a good thing. It means you are more likely to be able to relax your body after suffering from stress more quickly, and your internal systems probably function better, such as:

  • Sugar regulations
  • Reduced risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Better digestion
  • Fewer migraines
  • Lower depression
  • Less stress and anxiety

Scientists have discovered that the vagus nerve is monitoring and responding to your body. It initiates responses to any inflammation, all of which affects your mood and your ability to cope with your body’s reactions.

vagus nerve

Low vagal tone

If you have a low vagal tone you are more susceptible to heart problems, strokes, diabetes, depression, and inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, lupus, and endometriosis.

However, a number of researchers have discovered that by stimulating the nerve using electrical current you can increase your vagal tone, and improve your resilience to these problems.

However, there are ways you can improve your vagal tone yourself:

1. Hum. It may sound bizarre, but humming stimulates the nerve because it is connected to your vocal chords. Try it!

2. Speak. Speak more and you will raise your vagal tone through your vocal chords.

3. Coldwater. While there is more research to be done on this technique, there has been evidence to suggest that by splashing cold water on your face you stimulate the vagus nerve.

4. Breathe Deeply. Take long, deep breaths and use your diaphragm to stimulate your vagus nerve.

5. Yoga. The relaxed, concentrated breathing practices of yoga can increase to your vagal tone levels.

6. MeditateA study in 2013 reported that meditation and thinking positive thoughts can have a positive effect on your vagus nerve.

7. Improve gut health. One of the many positives of having a healthy gut is that it increases your vagal tone levels. It works by creating a loop of health from your gut, through the nerve and back. Try probiotics as a healthy bacteria supplement.

Adjust your daily routine to improve your vagal tone and stimulate your vagus nerve, it’s so simple but so effective. It’s time to take control of your nerves!


via How to Naturally Stimulate Vagus Nerve to Stop Migraines, Inflammation and Depression!

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[WEB SITE] Enhanced rehab for stroke doubles movement recovery.

Date: September 27, 2018

Source: University of Texas at Dallas

Summary: A novel therapy technique has been shown in a pilot study to double the rate of upper limb recovery in stroke patients, a leap forward in treating the nearly 800,000 Americans who suffer strokes each year.


A novel therapy technique invented by researchers at The University of Texas at Dallas has been shown in a pilot study to double the rate of upper limb recovery in stroke patients, a leap forward in treating the nearly 800,000 Americans who suffer strokes each year.

The results of the study, funded by UT Dallas spinoff company MicroTransponder of Austin, Texas, were published Sept. 27 in the journal Stroke.

The findings indicate that targeted plasticity therapy — which involves stimulation of the vagus nerve — paired with traditional motor-skill rehabilitation is not only safe, but also twice as effective as rehab alone.

Dr. Jane Wigginton, the chief medical officer at UT Dallas’ Texas Biomedical Device Center (TxBDC) and an associate professor of emergency medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center, led the Dallas site of the clinical trial, which involved 17 people across the country who had suffered a stroke.

“Stroke is too common and too debilitating for us to tolerate the status quo,” Wigginton said. “Patients need a real solution so they can get back to fully living their lives.”

Dr. Michael Kilgard, associate director and chief science officer of the TxBDC, invented targeted plasticity therapy (TPT). Kilgard, who is also the Margaret Fonde Jonsson Professor in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences (BBS), said the study results further validate the theories that he and his colleagues based their TPT work on beginning in 2009.

“We set out to design an approach that could transform long-term care and restore quality of life to patients for whom that has thus far been impossible,” said Kilgard, who was not involved in the clinical trial. “These results show our method has immense potential. We’re excited about what this could mean for millions of stroke patients worldwide.”

Researchers affiliated with the TxBDC and BBS developed the therapy technique, which pairs physical movements with precisely timed vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) — electrical stimulus of the nerve via a device implanted on the nerve in the neck.

The vagus nerve controls the parasympathetic nervous system, overseeing many unconscious functions such as circulation and digestion. Stimulating the nerve initiates neural plasticity — reorganization of the brain’s circuitry. The idea behind TPT is that synchronizing VNS with movement accelerates plasticity in a damaged brain, and with it, recovery.

A stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is interrupted because of a blockage or a ruptured blood vessel. Limb mobility can be affected when nerve cells are damaged. Such forms of brain trauma are often treated with rehabilitation that includes repeated movement of the affected limb in an effort to regain motor skills. The approach is thought to work by helping the brain reorganize.

Several studies of Kilgard’s technique in animal models have previously demonstrated that it is effective in recovering limb function after stroke. A small clinical trial in Europe also provided encouraging data for its potential use in humans.

In 2009, UT Dallas licensed its VNS technique as a stroke and tinnitus treatment to MicroTransponder, which sponsored the new double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Neither the researchers nor the study subjects knew who was getting VNS stimulation and who was not.

Each study subject was a stroke patient whose stroke occurred between four months and five years prior to selection. After they had a VNS device implanted, the subjects received six weeks of in-clinic rehab followed by a home exercise program. About half were treated with active VNS while the rest received control VNS. All were assessed one, 30 and 90 days after therapy with a widely used, stroke-specific measure of performance impairment.

In addition to showing that the technique is safe, the researchers found that subjects receiving active VNS scored more than twice as high as control subjects at the 30- and 90-day intervals, opening the way for larger, more extensive clinical trials, Kilgard said. One such trial is in the recruitment phase and includes a study site in Dallas.

Story Source:

Materials provided by University of Texas at DallasNote: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Teresa J. Kimberley et al. Vagus Nerve Stimulation Paired With Upper Limb Rehabilitation After Chronic Stroke A Blinded Randomized Pilot StudyStroke, 2018 DOI: 10.1161/STROKEAHA.118.022279


via Enhanced rehab for stroke doubles movement recovery — ScienceDaily

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[ARTICLE] Vagus Nerve Stimulation Paired With Upper Limb Rehabilitation After Chronic Stroke – Full Text PDF

A Blinded Randomized Pilot Study

Background and Purpose

We assessed safety, feasibility, and potential effects of vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) paired with rehabilitation for improving arm function after chronic stroke.


We performed a randomized, multisite, double-blinded, sham-controlled pilot study. All participants were implanted with a VNS device and received 6-week in-clinic rehabilitation followed by a home exercise program. Randomization was to active VNS (n=8) or control VNS (n=9) paired with rehabilitation. Outcomes were assessed at days 1, 30, and 90 post-completion of in-clinic therapy.


All participants completed the course of therapy. There were 3 serious adverse events related to surgery. Average FMA-UE scores increased 7.6 with active VNS and 5.3 points with control at day 1 post–in-clinic therapy (difference, 2.3 points; CI, −1.8 to 6.4; P=0.20). At day 90, mean scores increased 9.5 points from baseline with active VNS, and the control scores improved by 3.8 (difference, 5.7 points; CI, −1.4 to 11.5; P=0.055). The clinically meaningful response rate of FMA-UE at day 90 was 88% with active VNS and 33% with control VNS (P<0.05).


VNS paired with rehabilitation was acceptably safe and feasible in participants with upper limb motor deficit after chronic ischemic stroke. A pivotal study of this therapy is justified.


Full Text PDF

via Vagus Nerve Stimulation Paired With Upper Limb Rehabilitation After Chronic Stroke | Stroke

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[WEB SITE] Vivistim Therapy “Rewires” Brain to Help Move the Arms Post-Stroke

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Study participant Ken Meeks tests the use of Vivistim therapy to help him regain use of his arms after experiencing a stroke following a car accident. (Photo courtesy of Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center)

Study participant Ken Meeks tests the use of Vivistim therapy to help him regain use of his arms after experiencing a stroke following a car accident. (Photo courtesy of Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center)

An experimental treatment called Vivistim therapy is being tested for use with stroke patients to help them regain some function in their arms.

The therapy involves the use of a neurotransmitter implanted just below the skin on the chest during a minimally invasive outpatient surgery. The device is connected to the vagus nerve in the neck, which transmits signals to the brain.

A study being conducted at the Neurological Institute at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center, as well as at other institutions across the United States and in the United Kingdom is investigating whether use of the device along with rehabilitative therapy may help improve patients’ upper limb movement after a stroke, according to a news story from Healthline.

Marcia Brockbrader, MD, PhD, one of the study’s principal investigators, notes that the device may be promising, but it won’t be a quick fix. It doesn’t work on its own, she adds.

“It’s a device that helps the brain get into a state where it can benefit more from therapy. There’s a button that the therapist presses to activate the device as participants do therapy. The intent of the pulse is much like a heart pacer — to pace the brain. It’s about half a second of stimulation. We think that this very brief pulse is like a ‘wake up and pay attention’ to the brain to use what happens next to help relearn how to use a paralyzed limb,” she explains.

Bockbrader states this trial is focusing on the upper limbs in part because people need their hands to take care of themselves.

“If you can use your hands, you can do a lot of what you need to do with a wheelchair. If you can’t use your hands, you need people around to help more,” she says.

According to the news story, 13 institutions in the United States and five institutions in the United Kingdom are participating in this trial, and they are still seeking participants.

“We’re looking at people in the chronic phase of stroke because it gives them the chance to recover naturally as much as possible,” Bockbrader states.

The typical participant is about 9 months out from a stroke and has done all the therapies they’re eligible for. In addition, per the news story, researchers are choosing a middle-of-the-road impaired population who can flex and extend the wrist and move the thumb, but can’t use their hands the way they should for daily living.

“This suggests to us that connections between the arm and the brain are still there but not working at 100 percent efficiency. There’s still room for improvement. If the device is found to be effective, we can start looking at whether it can be beneficial for those more severely affected by stroke. It’s early on in the evaluation process,” Bockbrader shares.

Recruitment will probably continue for the next 2 years.

Bockbrader says the study is a complicated three-phase design. The initial two phases can last up to a year and a half.

“But if people choose to, we will keep the stimulator in and follow them yearly after that. There’s no end in sight for people who want to keep the stimulator in place and feel it’s helping. If they don’t, removal is a short outpatient surgery,” she notes.

Patients interested in participating in the study should contact the recruitment office at their nearest participating institution, according to the news story.

[Source: Healthline]

via Vivistim Therapy “Rewires” Brain to Help Move the Arms Post-Stroke – Rehab Managment

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[ARTICLE] Safety, Feasibility, and Efficacy of Vagus Nerve Stimulation Paired With Upper-Limb Rehabilitation After Ischemic Stroke – Full Text


Background and Purpose—Recent animal studies demonstrate that vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) paired with movement induces movement-specific plasticity in motor cortex and improves forelimb function after stroke. We conducted a randomized controlled clinical pilot study of VNS paired with rehabilitation on upper-limb function after ischemic stroke.

Methods—Twenty-one participants with ischemic stroke >6 months before and moderate to severe upper-limb impairment were randomized to VNS plus rehabilitation or rehabilitation alone. Rehabilitation consisted of three 2-hour sessions per week for 6 weeks, each involving >400 movement trials. In the VNS group, movements were paired with 0.5-second VNS. The primary objective was to assess safety and feasibility. Secondary end points included change in upper-limb measures (including the Fugl–Meyer Assessment-Upper Extremity).

Results—Nine participants were randomized to VNS plus rehabilitation and 11 to rehabilitation alone. There were no serious adverse device effects. One patient had transient vocal cord palsy and dysphagia after implantation. Five had minor adverse device effects including nausea and taste disturbance on the evening of therapy. In the intention-to-treat analysis, the change in Fugl–Meyer Assessment-Upper Extremity scores was not significantly different (between-group difference, 5.7 points; 95% confidence interval, −0.4 to 11.8). In the per-protocol analysis, there was a significant difference in change in Fugl–Meyer Assessment-Upper Extremity score (between-group difference, 6.5 points; 95% confidence interval, 0.4 to 12.6).

Conclusions—This study suggests that VNS paired with rehabilitation is feasible and has not raised safety concerns. Additional studies of VNS in adults with chronic stroke will now be performed.


Arm weakness is common after stroke, and its treatment is recognized as an area of considerable need.1 Approximately 85% of patients with stroke present with arm weakness,2 and 60% of stroke survivors with nonfunctional arms at 1 week do not recover function by 6 months.3Current treatment for arm weakness typically comprises intensive, task-specific, and repetitive rehabilitative interventions or occasionally methods such as constraint-induced movement therapy and electric neurostimulation.4 A recent meta-analysis and large-scale trials show the effects of current treatments for arm weakness to be modest.5,6 Novel and more effective treatments are needed. Improvement in arm function should improve quality of life for stroke survivors, reduce comorbidities associated with loss of independence, and reduce cost to the healthcare system.7

Intensive training has been shown to facilitate a range of neuroplastic brain events.8 It is possible that augmentation of neuroplasticity to promote reorganization of neural networks is required to more fully recover motor function.9 However, no practical and effective method exists to achieve this and even if such changes occur, it is unclear whether they are clinically meaningful or long term. This study is a preliminary investigation of an intervention designed to promote specific neuroplasticity; vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) paired with movement to drive task-specific plasticity in the motor cortex.1012 VNS activates neurons in the basal forebrain and locus coeruleus and results in release of acetylcholine and norepinephrine, respectively, which are known to facilitate reorganization of cortical networks.13 We recently demonstrated in a rat model of ischemic stroke that pairing forelimb rehabilitation with VNS significantly increases recovery of forelimb speed and strength when compared with rehabilitation alone.14,15 Our subsequent studies demonstrated that VNS paired with rehabilitative training also improves recovery in a rat model of intracerebral hemorrhage,16 and that precise timing of VNS with specific motor movements yields optimal recovery.17

We hypothesize that VNS paired with upper-limb rehabilitation therapy will result in greater recovery of arm function than rehabilitation alone in adults with chronic ischemic stroke. We performed the first-in-human evaluation of VNS paired with upper-limb rehabilitation after ischemic stroke. The main objective of the study was to evaluate the safety and feasibility of paired VNS therapy after stroke and to provide clinical data for sample size calculations for larger studies. […]


Continue —> Safety, Feasibility, and Efficacy of Vagus Nerve Stimulation Paired With Upper-Limb Rehabilitation After Ischemic Stroke | Stroke

Figure 1. Schematic of vagus nerve stimulation device use in a typical therapy session.

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[WEB SITE] Vagus nerve stimulation and upper limb rehabilitation.

The Upper Limb and Stroke

Arm weakness is common after stroke and its treatment is recognised as an area of considerable need.1 Approximately 85% of patients with stroke present with arm weakness2 and 60% of stroke survivors with poorly functioning arms at one week do not recover meaningful function by six months.3 Arm weakness is a major factor contributing to disability following stroke.4Current treatment for arm weakness typically comprises intensive, task-specific and repetitive rehabilitative interventions or occasionally methods such as constraint induced movement therapy and robotic therapy.5 A recent meta-analysis and large-scale trials show the effects of current treatments for arm weakness to be modest.6,7  Improvement in arm function should improve quality of life for stroke survivors, reduce co-morbidities associated with loss of independence, and reduce cost to the health care system.

Neuroplasticity and Recovery

Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to form new neural pathways in response to injury or disease. It has been a target for the treatment of many neurological disorders including epilepsy and tinnitus. Recent studies have suggested that augmentation of neuroplasticity is required to more fully recover motor function.9 Novel techniques that drive the growth of new neural pathways related to motor function are needed;  vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) may achieve this.

Vagus Nerve Stimulation

VNS is the delivery of small electrical impulses to the vagus nerve (Figure 1). VNS activates neurons in the basal forebrain and locus coeruleus and results in the release of acetylcholine and norepinephrine. These neurotransmitters are known to facilitate the reorganisation of cortical networks.10 VNS is already used to treat patients with medically refractory epilepsy, with studies showing a reduction in seizure frequency of 50% in 24.5 to 46.6% of patients.11,12,13 In excess of 75,000 patients with refractory epilepsy have been implanted with VNS devices.14  The concept of using VNS to restore normal neuronal activity / drive neuroplasticity is under investigation in other chronic neurological conditions.

In noise induced tinnitus, cochlear trauma can lead to a disorganised auditory cortex resulting in chronic symptoms.15,16,17 The severity of tinnitus is related to the degree of map re-organisation in the auditory cortex.15,16,17  In pre-clinical studies, pairing auditory tones with brief pulses of VNS has been shown to cause re-organisation of auditory cortex maps specific to that tone.18 Further, noise-exposed rats were noted to have a significant reduction in startle response, presumably due to tinnitus, and pairing VNS with multiple tones reversed this effect.18 Thus, VNS paired with a specific stimulus may drive neuroplasticity specifically for that stimulus, thereby restoring auditory cortex architecture and reducing tinnitus. Studies suggest that VNS may help humans with tinnitus.19 Ten patients known to have unilateral or bilateral tinnitus for over a year received four weeks of VNS paired with auditory tone therapy (using MicroTransponder Inc’s Serenity© system). Subjective and objective primary outcome measures were identified in the form of the Tinnitus Handicap Inventory (THI) and the Minimum Masking Level (MML). In patients who had not been taking drugs which could interfere with VNS (muscarinic antagonists, noradrenergic reuptake inhibitors and γ-amino butyric acid agonists), a significant fall in THI of 28.17% was seen following VNS paired with auditory tones.19 Three out of five such patients had a clinically meaningful decrease in THI (44.3% decrease).19 Similar results were seen in the MML test which detects the lowest level of noise required to “drown out” the tinnitus. Results of a recently completed and larger, double blind and randomised study of VNS paired with auditory tones in tinnitus are eagerly awaited. Another study looked at the use of transcutaneous vagus nerve (t-VNS) stimulation in tinnitus. When used in combination with sound therapy t-VNS was found to modulate auditory cortical activation, resulting in reduced tinnitus and tinnitus associated distress.20

Figure 1: © Images copyright of MicroTransponder The stimulation electrodes of the leads are placed on the left vagus nerve in the left carotid sheath, and the lead is then tunnelled subcutaneously to a subcutaneous pocket created in the left pectoral region where it is attached to the pulse generator. A wireless control interface is used to communicate with the VNS device and deliver stimulation during therapy sessions.

Continue —>  Vagus nerve stimulation and upper limb rehabilitation | ACNR | Online Neurology Journal

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