Far field potentials from the brain stem after transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation
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Recently, the vagus nerve has gained particular interest in neuropsychiatry, as neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease are supposed to affect the brainstem nuclei of the vagus nerve early in their course. In addition, electric stimulation of the vagus nerve has therapeutic effects in otherwise therapy-refractory epilepsies and depressions. So far, no method is available to assess vagus nerve function in this context. On this background and based on the established techniques of early acoustic evoked potentials we investigated if a transcutaneous electric stimulation of the sensory auricular branch of the vagus nerve innervating parts of the outer ear is feasible in healthy subjects using this hypothesis-generated approach. We were able to record a clear, reproducible Vagus Sensory Evoked Potential (VSEP) measured as far field potential probably originating in vagus nuclei in the brainstem. Further studies are needed to test the interindividual stability and test-retest reliability of this new method before potential diagnostic and therapeutic applications might be evaluated.
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