Researchers from The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research and SetPoint Medical Inc, Valencia, Calif, studying the therapeutic potential of low-level vagus nerve stimulation suggest, in their findings published in Bioelectronic Medicine, that low-level activation of either motor or sensory vagus nerve bundles can help diminish inflammation.

A fundamental goal of bioelectronic medicine, and a key aim researchers set out on, per a news release from The Feinstein Institute, is the exploration of how low-level electrical stimulation interacts with the body’s nerves to reduce inflammation. Prior to this study, according to the release, it was not understood which vagus nerve fiber types were responsible for reducing inflammatory activity in the body.

“Identifying the exact role of the different nerve bundles in the inflammatory reflex bolsters our understanding of the relationship between the central nervous system and the vagus nerve,” says Dr. Kevin J. Tracey, president and CEO of the Feinstein Institute, in the release.

“Furthermore, we now know that stimulating the vagus nerve for as little as half a millisecond is enough to inhibit tumor necrosis factor production,” Tracey adds.

After establishing the neural bundles activated in vagus nerve stimulation, the researchers observed that only low-intensity, short-duration, electric pulses were needed to reduce the production of inflammation-inducing cytokines, the release explains. Repetition of the pulses did not increase treatment success, indicating that a single stimulating pulse is potentially sufficient.

“Seeing successful results with low-level electrical current is a significant finding,” says Yaakov Levine, PhD, senior research scientist at SetPoint Medical, in the release.

“This indicates the potential for limited side effects, as well as promise for device miniaturization, both of which will be important to bringing vagus nerve stimulation into the mainstream,” Levine notes.

SetPoint Medical has recently concluded a clinical trial using vagus nerve stimulation to treat rheumatoid arthritis and is currently exploring a similar treatment for Crohn’s disease, the release says.

To read the paper in its entirety, visit

[Source: The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research]