Some researchers in Great Britain believe that a small electric tickle to the ear can affect our body’s entire nervous system. These British researchers say that electric tickle’s effect could be very beneficial to the nervous system and improve overall health. They even believe that it could slow down the aging process.
The official name of the electric tickle to the ear treatment is called transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation. Patients place a small clip on the vagus of their ear. The vagus is the pointed tip just above the ear lobe. The clip placed on the vagus contains an electrode that is designed to deliver a mild electric shock or tickle to the vagus of the ear.
The reason that the vagus of the ear was chosen as the site for delivering the electric tickle via a small clip is that it is part of the autonomic nervous system. This part of the nervous system controls functions such as body temperature, heart rhythm, and blood pressure. These are critical vital functions that are regulated automatically without us having to ever think about them.
British researchers believe that a mild electric stimulation or tickle to the vagus can help balance an out of whack autonomic nervous system. In one study that lasted for two weeks, transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation therapy or tVNS therapy helped restore a balance to the major branches of the nervous system. This was according to Susan Deuchars, who is overseeing research into this new procedure at the University of Leeds.
Dr. Deuchars says that as we age, the balance between the sympathetic branch of the nervous system and the autonomic nervous system can be thrown off balance. Transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation therapy seems to restore the balance between the autonomic and sympathetic nervous system to a level that results in improved health. The sympathetic branch of the nervous system is the one that releases stress hormones and creates the flight of fight response. If it is overactive, then it can be very detrimental to the body and throw the autonomic nervous system off balance.
Researchers studying tVNS believe that it can improve sleep patterns and the mental health of people. Conditions strongly linked to the autonomic nervous system, such as high blood pressure can also be improved. Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes and heart disease may also benefit from this electric tickle therapy.
Some medical doctors such as Dr. David Knopman from the Mayo Clinic are questioning the validity of transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation as a treatment. They say that that current studies had a very small number of volunteers and lasted for only a short time. More extended studies involving more people will need to be done to confirm that an electric tickle to the ear could be beneficial for the nervous system.