Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a result of chronic stress that mobilizes the autonomic nervous system, and may be reflected by chronic disinhibition of limbic structures. Mild traumatic brain injury commonly precedes PTSD in populations such as veterans, owing to the vulnerability of white matter in these networks. Such damage may affect response to treatment of PTSD. The authors evaluated transcutaneous vagal nerve stimulation (tVNS or taVNS), a non-invasive, low-risk neuro-auricular modulation of the pathways of the vagus nerve, via the outer ear.
In this single visit pilot study evaluating the impact of taVNS on functions of the limbo-cortical and peripheral networks underlying the hyperarousal component of PTSD, 22 combat veterans were evaluated. The results suggest that taVNS affects systems of emotional dysregulation. The authors observed a baseline shift in physiological state. For example, increases related to parasympathetic nervous system activity that may be interpreted as evidence of a tamping-down of defensive autonomic response and increased amenability to social engagement. The promising results deserve further evaluation and development for use in treatment of PTSD and related mental health conditions.
Read the full paper on Frontiers in Medicine