Effects of transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation in individuals aged 55 years or above: Potential benefits of daily stimulation

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Abstract

Ageing is associated with attenuated autonomic function. Transcutaneous vagal nerve stimulation (tVNS) improved autonomic function in healthy young participants. We therefore investigated the effects of a single session of tVNS (studies 1 and 2) and tVNS administered daily for two weeks (study 3) in volunteers aged ≥ 55 years. tVNS was performed using modified surface electrodes on the tragus and connected to a transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) machine. Study 1: participants (n=14) received a single session of tVNS and sham. Study 2: all participants (n=51) underwent a single session of tVNS. Study 3: participants (n=29) received daily tVNS for two weeks. Heart rate variability and baroreflex sensitivity were derived. Quality of life (QoL), mood and sleep were assessed in study 3. tVNS promoted increases in measures of vagal tone and was associated with greater increases in baroreflex sensitivity than sham. Two weeks of daily tVNS improved measures of autonomic function, and some aspects of QoL, mood and sleep. Importantly, findings showed that improvements in measures of autonomic balance were more pronounced in participants with greater baseline sympathetic prevalence. This suggests it may be possible to identify individuals who are likely to encounter significant benefits from tVNS.

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APA

Bretherton, B., Atkinson, L., Murray, A., Clancy, J., Deuchars, S., & Deuchars, J. (2019). Effects of transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation in individuals aged 55 years or above: Potential benefits of daily stimulation. Aging, 11(14), 4836–4857. https://doi.org/10.18632/aging.102074

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