Effect of Stimulation Current in Transcutaneous Vagus Nerve Stimulation (tVNS): A Study Using Concurrent Magnetoencephalography (MEG)

Author: Charlotte Keatch, Elisabeth Lambert, Will Woods, Tatiana Kameneva
Conference/Journal: Annu Int Conf IEEE Eng Med Biol Soc
Date published: 2023 Jul 1
Other: Volume ID: 2023 , Pages: 1-4 , Special Notes: doi: 10.1109/EMBC40787.2023.10340991. , Word Count: 334

Transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation (tVNS) is a non-invasive method of brain stimulation that has been investigated for its use in the clinical treatment of a number of different conditions. There has been little investigation into the stimulation current that is delivered and the effect on individual variability in response to tVNS.Seventeen participants underwent tVNS, and stimulation current was determined based on individual pain threshold. To investigate individual variability, brain dynamics were measured concurrently using magnetoencephalography (MEG) in response to two different stimulation protocols of tVNS. The first protocol consisted of a sequence of equally spaced short (1ms) stimulation pulses applied 24 times per second (24 Hz), and the second consisted of a sequence of 24 pulses per second spaced according to a 6 Hz pulse frequency modulation (PFM). Both stimulation sequences were delivered to the cymba concha in the left ear.The difference in brain responses to the two sequences was initially calculated using a one-sample t-test at the group level, based on z-scoring of the data at the individual level, and no statistically significant differences were observed. Further investigation of individual variability suggested that participants fell into two groups; one that responded more strongly to 24 Hz and one that responded more strongly to the irregular spacing of pulses in the PFM protocol.We tested whether the stimulation current that the participant received could predict how they would respond to the stimulation, but we did not observe any correlation. This supports the literature that suggests that selecting stimulation current based on individual pain threshold is a suitable procedure for tVNS, and higher stimulation intensities does not correspond to stronger brain response. Further investigation into individual variability in response to different frequencies and pulse spacing of tVNS should also be investigated further and may lead to the development of personalised stimulation protocols.Clinical relevance- The stimulation current at which tVNS is delivered does not appear to influence brain response to stimulation, and the value of stimulation current should be selected based on individual participant comfort.

PMID: 38083575 DOI: 10.1109/EMBC40787.2023.10340991