The strange case of the ear and the heart: the auricular vagus nerve and its influence on cardiac control

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Murray, AR ; Atkinson, L ; Mahadi, MK ; Deuchars, SA ; Deuchars, J (2016)
  • Publisher: Elsevier
  • Subject:
    mesheuropmc: otorhinolaryngologic diseases | sense organs

The human ear seems an unlikely candidate for therapies aimed at improving cardiac function, but the ear and the heart share a common connection: the vagus nerve. In recent years there has been increasing interest in the auricular branch of the vagus nerve (ABVN), a unique cutaneous subdivision of the vagus distributed to the external ear. Non-invasive electrical stimulation of this nerve through the skin may offer a simple, cost-effective alternative to the established method of vagus nerve stimulation (VNS), which requires a surgical procedure and has generated mixed results in a number of clinical trials for heart failure. This review discusses the available evidence in support of modulating cardiac activity using this strange auricular nerve.
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