Transcutaneous auricular vagus nerve stimulation in the treatment of disorders of consciousness: mechanisms and applications

Author: Likai Wang1, Fei Gao1, Zhan Wang1, Feng Liang2, Yongli Dai1, Mengchun Wang1, Jingyi Wu1, Yaning Chen1, Qinjie Yan1, Litong Wang1
1 Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, The Second Hospital of Dalian Medical University, Dalian, China.
2 First Clinical Medical College, Shanxi Medical University, Taiyuan, China.
Conference/Journal: Front Neurosci
Date published: 2023 Oct 18
Other: Volume ID: 17 , Pages: 1286267 , Special Notes: doi: 10.3389/fnins.2023.1286267. , Word Count: 162

This review provides an in-depth exploration of the mechanisms and applications of transcutaneous auricular vagus nerve stimulation (taVNS) in treating disorders of consciousness (DOC). Beginning with an exploration of the vagus nerve's role in modulating brain function and consciousness, we then delve into the neuroprotective potential of taVNS demonstrated in animal models. The subsequent sections assess the therapeutic impact of taVNS on human DOC, discussing the safety, tolerability, and various factors influencing the treatment response. Finally, the review identifies the current challenges in taVNS research and outlines future directions, emphasizing the need for large-scale trials, optimization of treatment parameters, and comprehensive investigation of taVNS's long-term effects and underlying mechanisms. This comprehensive overview positions taVNS as a promising and safe modality for DOC treatment, with a focus on understanding its intricate neurophysiological influence and optimizing its application in clinical settings.

Keywords: disorders of consciousness; mechanisms of action; neuroprotection; safety and tolerability; stimulation parameters; transcutaneous auricular vagus nerve stimulation.

PMID: 37920298 PMCID: PMC10618368 DOI: 10.3389/fnins.2023.1286267