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How Does Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS) Affect Cognition? A Review

Adam Broncel, Katarzyna Bliźniewska, Monika Talarowska

(Medical Technology Center, Łódź, Poland)

Med Sci Tech 2017; 58:67-72

DOI: 10.12659/MST.904180

ABSTRACT: Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) has been tested for treatment of various neurological and psychiatric disorders for over 25 years. So far, it is approved as a treatment of drug-resistant epileptic seizures. Proven effectiveness and long clinical experience of VNS brought attention of many researchers into other potential applications. Among the most promising directions are areas of cognitive disorders and memory processing. Vagus nerve stimulation can be performed directly via surgically implanted stimulator (invasive VNS) or non-invasively via a clip attached to the auricular concha (transcutaneous VNS through the auricular branch of the vagal nerve).
The aim of our review was to present the published evidence regarding the impact of vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) on cognition, in particular on the processes of memory formation. Performing a meta-analysis is not a subject of this paper. Most of the data were obtained from patients receiving VNS due to epilepsy. However, studies on healthy individuals and animals were also analyzed.
Studies show that vagal stimulation has a positive effect on enhancement of memory processes. The underlying mechanism for the memory-enhancing effect of VNS remains uncertain and requires further investigations.
Based on many observations and studies on patients undergoing this procedure, we conclude that vagus nerve stimulation is a promising therapeutic option for many cognitive disorders.

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