Vagus Nerve Stimulation:
A Deeper Dive

The Autonomic Nervous System

When you think about your nervous system, you probably think about the brain and how it controls your thoughts and movements.

However, there’s another part of your nervous system that works behind the scenes to regulate functions that you don’t consciously control. This is known as the autonomic nervous system (ANS).

What is the Autonomic Nervous System?

The ANS is like the backstage crew of a theater production, running the show without being seen. It manages functions like your heart rate, breathing, digestion, and body temperature — processes that happen automatically without you needing to think about them.

The autonomic nervous system is further divided into two primary parts: the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS).

Sympathetic Nervous System

Ready for Action

Think of the sympathetic nervous system as the ‘fight or flight’ manager. It prepares your body to respond to emergencies or vigorous activity. When the SNS is activated, your heart rate speeds up, your pupils dilate, and your body releases adrenaline to help you react quickly. It’s like the alarm system that gets your body ready to face danger or tackle physical challenges.

Parasympathetic Nervous System

Rest and Relax

On the other side of the coin, the parasympathetic nervous system is like the ‘rest and digest’ caretaker. It takes over once the perceived danger has passed, helping your body calm down and return to a relaxed state. It slows your heart rate, aids digestion, and allows your body to recover and repair. The PNS can be seen as the ‘chill-out’ system that promotes relaxation and rejuvenation.

The Role of the
Vagus Nerve

One important player in the autonomic nervous system is the vagus nerve. It is the longest cranial nerve, and it plays a key role in the parasympathetic nervous system. The vagus nerve carries signals between the brain and vital organs like the heart and lungs, helping regulate their automatic functions. This nerve is like the main road connecting different parts of the ANS ‘city,’ ensuring everything runs smoothly.

Vagus Nerve Stimulation Research & History

1. History of Vagus Nerve Stimulation Research

The study of vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) has come a long way since its early stages, progressing from rudimentary observations to sophisticated therapeutic applications.

2. Early Discoveries

The importance of the vagus nerve was first recognized in the 19th century. German physician Friedrich Goltz observed that heart rate could be slowed by stimulating the vagus nerve, a discovery that was later developed by physiologist Otto Loewi in the early 20th century. Loewi’s work, which demonstrated that the vagus nerve released a substance he named ‘Vagusstoff’ (later identified as acetylcholine) to slow the heart, won him the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1936.

3. Birth of VNS Therapy

The idea of using vagus nerve stimulation as a treatment for health conditions originated in the late 20th century. In 1985, a team led by Jacob Zabara found that VNS could prevent or reduce the severity of seizures in dogs, opening up a new avenue for epilepsy treatment.

The development of VNS as a therapy moved quickly. By 1997, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had approved a VNS device for treating epilepsy. This device, made by Cyberonics (now LivaNova), was implanted in the chest and sent regular electrical impulses to the vagus nerve via a lead in the neck.

4. Expanding Applications

In the early 2000s, researchers began to explore the potential use of VNS in treating psychiatric conditions. After several studies showed positive effects, the FDA approved VNS therapy for treatment-resistant depression in 2005.

The potential applications for VNS continued to expand, with researchers investigating its use for a variety of conditions, such as chronic pain, obesity, migraines, and even Alzheimer’s disease. Many of these studies are still ongoing.

5. Recent Advances

More recent research has focused on non-invasive VNS methods. These include transcutaneous VNS, which stimulates the vagus nerve through the skin, and transcranial VNS, which uses magnetic fields to stimulate the nerve.

In the 2020s, companies like the ultrasound neuromodulation company behind the Zenbud began exploring ultrasound technology as a means of stimulating the vagus nerve. This non-invasive approach avoids the need for surgical implantation and can be administered more easily and comfortably.

6. Conclusion

From its early discovery in the 19th century to the innovative, non-invasive technologies of today, vagus nerve stimulation has a rich history rooted in curiosity, scientific ingenuity, and a dedication to improving human health. As we continue to unravel the intricacies of the vagus nerve and the autonomic nervous system, the possibilities for VNS therapy continue to expand.

The ZenBud: A leap in VNS technology

The ZenBud is the cutting edge technology. As the first ever ultrasound vagus nerve stimulator on the ear, it represents a new era of vagus nerve stimulation technology.
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We are proud to introduce ZenBud as a cutting-edge innovation developed under the umbrella of NeurGear.

Leveraging NeurGear’s deep expertise in bioengineering solutions, ZenBud brings to life an unprecedented technology in the form of an ultrasound auricular vagus nerve stimulator.

*This Zenbud device is a wellness device intended to supplement, not replace, professional medical advice. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Do not use this device if you have a medical condition or are taking any medications without consulting your physician. Keep out of reach of children.