Eurekalert has details on a new anti-aging system that, according to University of Leeds researchers, resets older folks’ autonomic nervous system by stimulating the vagus nerve with mild electric shocks to the ear:
Scientists found that a short daily therapy delivered for two weeks led to both physiological and wellbeing improvements, including a better quality of life, mood and sleep.
The therapy, called transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation, delivers a small, painless electrical current to the ear, which sends signals to the body’s nervous system through the vagus nerve.
This could help protect people from chronic diseases which we become more prone to as we get older, such as high blood pressure, heart disease and atrial fibrillation. The researchers, who published their findings today in the journal Aging, suggest that the ‘tickle’ therapy has the potential to help people age more healthily, by recalibrating the body’s internal control system.
Lead author Dr Beatrice Bretherton, from the School of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Leeds, said: “The ear is like a gateway through which we can tinker with the body’s metabolic balance, without the need for medication or invasive procedures. We believe these results are just the tip of the iceberg.
“We are excited to investigate further into the effects and potential long-term benefits of daily ear stimulation, as we have seen a great response to the treatment so far.”
In their new study, scientists at the University of Leeds wanted to see whether tVNS could benefit over 55-year-olds, who are more likely to have out-of-balance autonomic systems that could contribute to health issues associated with ageing.
They recruited 29 healthy volunteers, aged 55 or above, and gave each of them the tVNS therapy for 15 minutes per day, over a two week period. Participants were taught to self-administer the therapy at home during the study.
The therapy led to an increase in parasympathetic activity and a decrease in sympathetic activity, rebalancing the autonomic function towards that associated with healthy function. In addition, some people reported improvements in measures of mental health and sleeping patterns.