Vagus nerve stimulation: A new form of therapeutic brain stimulation

Mark S. George, Ziad Nahas, Daryl E. Bohning, Mikhael Lomarev, Stuart Denslow, Richard Osenbach, James C. Ballenger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Although the vagus nerve has traditionally been considered to perform efferent functions, in reality it performs significant afferent functions as well, carrying information from the body, head, and neck to the brain. Preliminary studies examining this afferent activity led to the theory that vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) could successfully control seizure activity in persons who are refractory to antiepileptic medications. Unlike other forms of brain stimulation, VNS is unable to directly stimulate multiple discrete areas of the brain; however, through several pathways, it is able to relay sensory information to higher brain regions. An implantable VNS device known as the VNS™ NeuroCybernetic Prosthesis (NCP) System has been used in approximately 9,000 epilepsy patients in Europe and the United States since 1994. The implant has reduced seizure frequency by an average of 25% to 30%, with minimal side effects. Studies underway are also showing some degree of success in the management of treatment-refractory depression. The future efficacy of the implantable system in other disorders may depend on whether the implant can be more precisely focused to affect different brain regions. Research in this area is underway.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)43-52
Number of pages10
JournalCNS Spectrums
Issue number11
StatePublished - Jan 1 2000


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