Recognizing the role of the vagus nerve in depression from microbiota-gut brain axis

Author: Chaoren Tan1, Qiqi Yan2, Yue Ma3, Jiliang Fang3, Yongsheng Yang1
1 Institute of Acupuncture and Moxibustion, China Academy of Chinese Medical Science, Beijing, China.
2 Institute of Basic Theory for Chinese Medicine, China Academy of Chinese Medical Science, Beijing, China.
3 Guang'anmen Hospital, China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences, Beijing, China.
Conference/Journal: Front Neurol
Date published: 2022 Nov 10
Other: Volume ID: 13 , Pages: 1015175 , Special Notes: doi: 10.3389/fneur.2022.1015175. , Word Count: 211

Depression is a worldwide disease causing severe disability, morbidity, and mortality. Despite abundant studies, the precise mechanisms underlying the pathophysiology of depression remain elusive. Recently, cumulate research suggests that a disturbance of microbiota-gut-brain axis may play a vital role in the etiology of depression while correcting this disturbance could alleviate depression symptoms. The vagus nerve, linking brain and gut through its afferent and efferent branches, is a critical route in the bidirectional communication of this axis. Directly or indirectly, the vagus afferent fibers can sense and relay gut microbiota signals to the brain and induce brain disorders including depression. Also, brain changes in response to stress may result in gut hyperpermeability and inflammation mediating by the vagal efferents, which may be detrimental to depression. Notably, vagus nerve stimulation owns an anti-inflammatory effect and was proved for depression treatment. Nevertheless, depression was accompanied by a low vagal tone, which may derive from response to stress and contribute to pathogenesis of depression. In this review, we aim to explore the role of the vagus nerve in depression from the perspective of the microbiota-gut-brain axis, highlighting the relationship among the vagal tone, the gut hyperpermeability, inflammation, and depression.

Keywords: depressive disorder; gut microbiota; gut permeability; microbiota-gut-brain axis; vagus nerve.

PMID: 36438957 PMCID: PMC9685564 DOI: 10.3389/fneur.2022.1015175