Vagus nerve stimulation acutely alters food craving in adults with depression

Jamie S. Bodenlos, Samet Kose, Jeffrey J. Borckardt, Ziad Nahas, Darlene Shaw, Patrick M. O'Neil, Mark S. George

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) is now available as a treatment for epilepsy and treatment-resistant depression. The vagus nerve plays a central role in satiety and short-term regulation of food intake and research suggests a relationship between VNS and weight loss. The underlying mechanisms of this relationship are unknown. The purpose of the current study was to determine whether acute cervical VNS might temporarily alter food cravings. Thirty-three participants were recruited for three groups; depression VNS, depression non-VNS, and healthy controls. Participants viewed 22 computerized images of foods twice in one session and completed ratings for food cravings after each image. The VNS participants' devices were turned on for one viewing of an image and off for the other (randomized order). Participants were blind to VNS condition (on versus off). Acute VNS device activation was associated with a significant change in cravings-ratings for sweet foods. A significant proportion of variability in VNS-related changes in cravings was accounted for by patients' clinical VNS device settings, acute level of depression, and body mass. Further studies are warranted addressing how acute or chronic VNS might modify eating behavior and weight.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)145-153
Number of pages9
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2007

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was funded in part by an intramural grant through the University Research, Committee at the Medical University of South Carolina.

Copyright 2008 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Brain stimulation
  • Depression
  • Food cravings
  • Obesity
  • VNS
  • Vagus nerve stimulation


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