Ear Tickling

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Ear-stimulation-and-healthy-ageingScientists from the University of Leeds have found that daily stimulation of the vagus nerve leads to physiological and wellbeing improvements, including a better quality of life, mood and sleep. The #vagus nerve transmits information from the brain to organs around the body and plays a crucial role in the body’s autonomic nervous system. The ear can act as a gateway to the nervous system with a small branch of the vagus nerve being stimulated via a section of the outer ear.


Transcutaneous vagal nerve stimulation (#tVNS) involves stimulating the vagus nerve at outer parts of the ear and is a simple, non-invasive, inexpensive therapy. The nervous system branches into sympathetic and parasympathetic, controlling functions such as breathing, digestion and blood pressure. As we age the parasympathetic, responsible for activities that occur when the body is at rest, becomes less active which can lead to chronic diseases such as high blood pressure and heart disease. Researchers have found that just 15 minutes of tVNS can increase parasympathetic activity.


The study from Leeds focused on the results of three separate studies with a total of 51 participants all aged over 55.  tVNS was performed using a TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) machine applied for 15 minutes with the stimulus at a borderline perceptible and comfortable level. The results of the studies showed a significant improvement in quality of life for patients, including reduced depression scores and better sleep patterns. There was also an improvement in heart rate variability and spontaneous cardiac baroeflex sensitivity. It is hoped researchers can use these results to identify those groups that may benefit most from tVNS and lengthen the healthy ageing process.


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