Studies of vagal nerve stimulation in people with neurodevelopmental conditions or acquired brain injury.
A series of studies are being undertaken focusing on behaviours that may result from impairments in emotional self-regulation and which impact on the health, wellbeing and quality of life of people with particular neurodevelopmental conditions or have an acquired brain injury and also impact on their families and others who provide support. These studies are investigating the acceptability, feasibility and potential efficacy of using vagal nerve stimulation to treat these behaviours. This work initially focussed on people with Prader-Willi Syndrome (PWS) where a study of the potential effects of vagal nerve stimulation, using an implanted stimulator, on the excessive eating behaviour was undertaken. No effects on eating were observed but marked beneficial effects on behaviour (Manning et al, 2016) were noted.
A further study using the Nemos externally worn stimulator manufactured by Sasse Electronik has now been completed with significant improvements observed in four out five participants who completed the study. Senior members of the now established VNS research collaboration include Isabel Clare, Tony Holland, Howard Ring, Peter Watson and Shahid Zaman, University of Cambridge, and Fergus Gracey, Norwich Medical School, UEA. Members of the group are expanding the studies to include these other groups of people who may have high levels of such behaviours and are also seeking, in collaboration with colleagues, Professor Stephen Porges, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, USA and Dr Andrew Kemp, CHHS Health and Wellbeing Academy, University of Swansea, a better understand the mechanisms that may underpin positive behavioural change. Our group is working with the manufactures to further develop how tVNS can be best delivered and to increase the types of options available for the treatment of these behaviours.