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Effects of auricular electrical stimulation on vagal activity in healthy men: Evidence from a three-armed randomized trial - Zurich Open Repository and Archive


La Marca, Roberto; Nedeljkovic, M; Yuan, L; Maercker, Andreas; Ehlert, Ulrike (2010). Effects of auricular electrical stimulation on vagal activity in healthy men: Evidence from a three-armed randomized trial. Clinical Science, 118(8):537-546.

Abstract

The activity of the vagus nerve is negatively associated with risk factors such as stress and smoking, morbidity, and mortality. In contrast it is also a target of therapeutic intervention. Vagus nerve stimulation is used in depression and epilepsy. Due to its high invasivity and exclusive application to therapy-resistant patients, there is interest in less invasive methods affecting the vagus nerve. Several studies examining acupuncture report beneficial effects on vagal activity. However, findings are inconsistent and applied methods are heterogeneous resulting in difficulties in interpretation. The purpose of the present study was evaluation of the effects of acupuncture on vagal activity in a three-armed randomized trial while controlling several disturbing factors. Fourteen healthy men participated in random order in four examinations: a control condition without intervention, a condition with placebo, manual acupuncture, and electroacupuncture. Acupuncture was conducted on the concha of the ear, as there is neuroanatomical evidence for vagal afferents. Each examination took place once, with a week's time between examinations. Respiratory sinus arrhythmia adjusted for tidal volume (RSATR) indicating vagal activity was measured continuously. The study was conducted partially blind in accordance with recommendations. After controlling for respiration, condition-specific pain sensation, individual differences in belief of acupuncture effectiveness, and time effects not attributable to the interventions, electroacupuncture but not manual acupuncture was found to have a positive effect on RSATR. The results underline the potential role of auricular electrical stimulation to induce an increase in vagal activity, and it therefore might be used as preventive or adjuvant therapeutic intervention promoting health.

Abstract

The activity of the vagus nerve is negatively associated with risk factors such as stress and smoking, morbidity, and mortality. In contrast it is also a target of therapeutic intervention. Vagus nerve stimulation is used in depression and epilepsy. Due to its high invasivity and exclusive application to therapy-resistant patients, there is interest in less invasive methods affecting the vagus nerve. Several studies examining acupuncture report beneficial effects on vagal activity. However, findings are inconsistent and applied methods are heterogeneous resulting in difficulties in interpretation. The purpose of the present study was evaluation of the effects of acupuncture on vagal activity in a three-armed randomized trial while controlling several disturbing factors. Fourteen healthy men participated in random order in four examinations: a control condition without intervention, a condition with placebo, manual acupuncture, and electroacupuncture. Acupuncture was conducted on the concha of the ear, as there is neuroanatomical evidence for vagal afferents. Each examination took place once, with a week's time between examinations. Respiratory sinus arrhythmia adjusted for tidal volume (RSATR) indicating vagal activity was measured continuously. The study was conducted partially blind in accordance with recommendations. After controlling for respiration, condition-specific pain sensation, individual differences in belief of acupuncture effectiveness, and time effects not attributable to the interventions, electroacupuncture but not manual acupuncture was found to have a positive effect on RSATR. The results underline the potential role of auricular electrical stimulation to induce an increase in vagal activity, and it therefore might be used as preventive or adjuvant therapeutic intervention promoting health.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Psychology
Dewey Decimal Classification:150 Psychology
Language:English
Date:2010
Deposited On:17 Dec 2009 13:12
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 13:35
Publisher:Portland Press
ISSN:0143-5221
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1042/CS20090264
PubMed ID:19895369

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