Noninvasive vagus nerve stimulation can improve symptoms of Parkinson’s disease

Noninvasive vagus nerve stimulation (nVNS) can improve gait and other motor symptoms in patients with Parkinson’s disease, according to biomarker research published in Nature.

Neurostimulation is already used to treat epilepsy, migraines, and cluster headaches. The researchers hypothesized that nVNS could fight neuroinflammation in Parkinson’s disease.

The randomized, double-blind, sham-controlled crossover study enrolled 36 participants with Parkinson’s disease, with 17 randomly assigned to the nVNS group and 19 to the initial sham. A total of 21 patients completed both arms of the crossover study. Researchers viewed nVNS as an addition to the standard of treatment for a month, focusing on the treatment’s effects on duct freezing. The researchers measured serum biomarkers for inflammation and oxidative stress, as well as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).

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The researchers found that speed increased by 16% (P = .018), stride length increased by 11% (P = .021), and stride time increased by 16% (P = .003) in the active nVNS group. There were no significant changes in speed (2.3%; P = 1.0), stride length (1%; P = 1.0), or stride time (1.7%; P = 0.708) in the sham group.

Clinical scores before and after treatment in the two groups separately showed improved clinical outcome measures in both groups. Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale Parts II and III (UPDRS II, III), fall efficiency scale score, and freeze gait questionnaire scores improved significantly in both groups.

Although the results are “promising” according to the researchers, after correlating multiple comparisons, they found no significant difference between the groups. The researchers also did not measure molecular biomarkers. Video-based aisle freeze estimation is another limitation.

“Overall, our results provide the first evidence that nVNS downregulates important proinflammatory cytokines, upregulates BDNF and levels the antioxidant (reduced glutathione) in [patients with Parkinson disease], and that nVNS disease-modifying effects in [Parkinson disease]“Said the researchers. “Also BDNF, [tumor necrosis factor]-α and reduced glutathione could serve as biomarkers in addition to improving motor symptoms in patients with Parkinson’s disease.


Mondal B, Choudhury S., Banerjee R, et al. Non-invasive vagus nerve stimulation improves clinical and molecular biomarkers of Parkinson’s disease in patients with duct freeze. NPJ Parkinsons Dis. 2021; 7 (1): 46. doi: 10.1038 / s41531-021-00190-x

This article originally appeared on Psychiatry Advisor

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