Impact of transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation on healthy cognitive and brain aging

Author: Erin Trifilio1,2,3, Destin Shortell3,4, Sarah Olshan2,4, Alexandria O'Neal4, Jozee Coyne1,2, Damon Lamb1,2,4, Eric Porges2,3,4, John Williamson1,2,3,4
1 Center for OCD and Anxiety Related Disorders, Department of Psychiatry, McKnight Brain Institute, College of Medicine, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, United States.
2 Brain Rehabilitation and Research Center, Malcom Randall VAMC, Gainesville, FL, United States.
3 Department of Clinical and Health Psychology, College of Public Health and Health Professions, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, United States.
4 Center for Cognitive Aging and Memory, McKnight Brain Institute, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, United States.
Conference/Journal: Front Neurosci
Date published: 2023 Jul 28
Other: Volume ID: 17 , Pages: 1184051 , Special Notes: doi: 10.3389/fnins.2023.1184051. , Word Count: 178

Evidence for clinically meaningful benefits of transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) has been rapidly accumulating over the past 15 years. This relatively novel non-invasive brain stimulation technique has been applied to a wide range of neuropsychiatric disorders including schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive disorder, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, and Alzheimer's disease. More recently, non-invasive forms of VNS have allowed for investigations within healthy aging populations. These results offer insight into protocol considerations specific to older adults and how to translate those results into effective clinical trials and, ultimately, effective clinical care. In this review, we characterize the possible mechanisms by which non-invasive VNS may promote healthy aging (e.g., neurotransmitter effects, inflammation regulation, functional connectivity changes), special considerations for applying non-invasive VNS in an older adult population (e.g., vagus nerve changes with age), and how non-invasive VNS may be used in conjunction with existing behavioral interventions (e.g., cognitive behavioral therapy, cognitive training) to promote healthy emotional and cognitive aging.

Keywords: aging; autonomic; brain; cognitive; inflammation; tVNS; transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation; vagus.

PMID: 37575296 PMCID: PMC10416636 DOI: 10.3389/fnins.2023.1184051