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article imageVagus nerve stimulation helps cure depression

By Tim Sandle     Feb 5, 2016 in Science
A new technique, where the Vagus nerve is stimulated, has been found to be effective for treating certain types of depression. This follows trials involving adult patients.
Most of the nerves in our bodies run up to the brain. The Vagus nerve, however, goes in the opposite direction, running from the brain to the body. This nerve has long been the center of pain management therapy. For example, a technique of nerve stimulation has recently been trialed to ease the pain and discomfort associated with arthritis (as Digital Journal reported last year.) Another application of the method has eased the condition of epilepsy ("Vagus nerve stimulation therapy for treatment-resistant epilepsy: A 15-year experience at a single institution" as published in the journal Clinical Neurology and Neurosurgery.)
A new study has applied neurostimulation to depression. With the technique, the Vagus nerve is stimulated through electrodes placed onto each ear. In trials, patients diagnosed with major depressive disorder who received the method were reportedly better. Alterations to their brain chemistry were confirmed by functional neuroimaging scans. While the results are promising, further research will be needed to assess the robustness of the method.
The new research is published in the journal Biological Psychiatry. The research paper is titled "Transcutaneous Vagus Nerve Stimulation Modulates Default Mode Network in Major Depressive Disorder."
In related news, two research groups have devised a new brain imaging system designed to capture depression early. The research is aimed at scanning the brains of children who have yet to show symptoms of depression so they can be treated early.
More about Depression, vagus nerve, nerve stimulation, Mental health
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