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Home arrow News arrow Neuromodulation: A New Way of Treating Anxiety

Neuromodulation: A New Way of Treating Anxiety

HealthReporter author Nadzeya Sankovich
Written by Nadzeya Sankovich
HR_author_photo_Rosmy
Fact checked by Rosmy Barrios, MD
Last update: July 20, 2023
4 min read 1304 Views 0 Comments
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Neuromodulation A New Way of Treating Anxiety

About 30% of people worldwide suffer from mental disorders and diseases such as depression, epilepsy, tinnitus, chronic pain, Parkinson’s, migraines, and others.1 More than a third of them take prescription medication.2

Along with medication come side effects: headaches, insomnia, dermatitis, diarrhea, and more. That is why scientists constantly work on other ways to treat mental diseases. Among them, neuromodulation is gaining more and more popularity.

So, what is neuromodulation? Is it effective and accessible for everyone? Our team asked for an expert’s opinion and tested one of these innovative gadgets.

Can Neuromodulation Replace Psychologists?

Neuromodulation is a process of changing nerve activity by delivering electrical agents directly to a target area (while treating mental illnesses – to the vagus nerve3). This type of neuromodulation is called vagus nerve stimulation (VNS).

VNS has already proven its effectiveness in treating anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other stress-related mental diseases.4

Moreover, it is used as a treatment for autism, Parkinson’s disease, dystonia, epilepsy, cerebral palsy, chronic pain syndrome, and others.5 But can it completely cure any disease?

Vitalijus Majorovas – the co-founder of the Pulsetto vagus nerve stimulator
Health Reporter image

To go deeper into the topic, the Health Reporter team interviewed Vitalijus Majorovas – the co-founder of the Pulsetto vagus nerve stimulator, sleep biohacker, and longevity geek who’s had more than 10 years of experience in the industry.

Expert opinion

Can VNS cure any disease? Replace medication or psychologists?

“It can be real, depending on the condition.

I believe that in some diseases, like epilepsy, neurostimulation can help when epilepsy seizures come – it might stop or reduce it, for example. In the case of depression, anxiety, or some kind of stress, it can be an alternative to cognitive behavioral therapy or different ways of treatment.

But this is not a competition. I don’t believe that, for example, if you have depression or blood pressure issues, you must get rid of everything except VNS. It should be used as an additional tool because synergies will bring you the best results.”

Like every other issue, VNS has its pros and cons. Here are a few of them:

Pros
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    No strong side effects
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    Relatively cheap
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    No addiction
Cons
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    Does not work for everybody
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    Needs its batteries to be replaced

But what is the vagus nerve, and how does its stimulation work? Let’s figure it out!

Vagus Nerve Stimulation: Keep Calm and Slow Down

You may not know anything about your vagus nerve. In the meantime, it plays a significant role in maintaining mental health.

It is the longest nerve and the main parasympathetic outflow to the heart6 and gastrointestinal organs.7 Vagus starts from your neck and transmits signals to the heart, lungs, stomach, pancreas, and other organs.

But also, the vagus is directly related to our emotional state.8 It regulates processes from “butterflies in the stomach” when falling in love to how quickly you recover from stress.9

Simply put, it is a kind of brake that slows down the body during intense fear or emotional outburst and uses neurotransmitters to reduce heart rate and blood pressure.10

Vagus Nerve Findings
Health Reporter edit

How does it work? The vagus nerve constantly sends information about the state of the organs to the brain. It also does the same thing in the opposite direction – messages from the brain to the internal organs also come through the vagus nerve.

Those messages may be a command to calm down or prepare for defense in stressful situations. So vagal tone is the key to personal resources: it governs the number of positive emotions and social connections we experience daily.

You can bring the vagus into tone with the help of neuromodulation. And it is not necessary to have surgery and implant a neuromodulation device. Nowadays, you can simply choose non-invasive vagus nerve stimulators.

Is Vagus Nerve Stimulation Accessible to Everyone?

Every year there are more and more non-invasive vagus nerve stimulators on the market: Pulsetto, Sensate, Vagustim, gammaCore Sapphire, taVNS, and others.

The Health Reporter team decided to purchase one of them and check how it works in practice. After comparing prices and reviews, we chose Pulsetto – one of the most affordable options with positive user feedback.

Expert opinion

“Typically, neurostimulators cost thousands of dollars. Why is Pulsetto so affordable? This is part of the entry strategy. When Pulsetto gets the medical device status, the price will be much higher: in the B2C market, it will be $300–400. But this is still affordable since the cost of neuromodulation devices can reach several thousand dollars.”

Pulsetto Review

Pulsetto is a device that activates the parasympathetic nervous system to reduce stress and anxiety. It gives a light vibration in your neck area using specific electrical impulses.

Pulsetto Review
Health Reporter image

When Pulsetto switches on your vagus nerve, the heart rate slows, and stress responses turn off, digestion improves.

According to the manufacturer,11 Pulsetto reduces anxiety and stress by 64.5% for long-lasting relief. In 2 weeks, 86% of users felt calmer, less stressed, and less anxious. Sounds promising – what about the user’s point of view?

Pulsetto Review
Health Reporter image

The Health Reporter team’s feedback

Pros
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    Easy to use: Put it on your neck. Choose the program in the Pulsetto app. Personalize the stimulation level.
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    Affordable price and high quality
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    One session takes 4–6 minutes
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    Pleasant light vibrations
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    Sits comfortably on the neck
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    User-friendly, well-designed mobile app
Cons
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    May not work for all people
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    Not suitable for very small or very wide necks and children
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    Batteries need to be changed

Expert opinion

Does Pulsetto work for everybody?

“At first, you need to try it for 2–3 weeks because whether it will work for you depends on genes. Previously, when only invasive stimulation existed, you needed to undergo medical procedure. Now non-invasive treatments are open for everybody, and you don’t need to have surgery and only then realize that perhaps neuromodulation is not working for you.”

The Future of Neuromodulation

The non-invasive neuromodulation market is growing incredibly fast. And, of course, investments are pouring in at the same rapid pace:

  • Avivomed Inc. announced a $32 million financing to develop neuromodulation technology to treat chronic disease patients.12
  • The Udall Center was awarded an $11.3 million grant to continue its work in deep brain stimulation for Parkinson’s disease.13
  • MicroTransponder has gotten $53 million in funding for commercializing its Vivistim paired vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) system.14

Neuromodulation has already proven its effectiveness in treating depression, Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, cerebral palsy, chronic pain syndrome, and others. And as we can see, scientists continue to receive funds to find out how to treat other diseases.

So what will happen with neuromodulation itself? How will it transform, and in which direction? We asked Vitalijus Majorovas these questions.

Expert opinion

“There are several directions in which neuromodulation will develop in the future, and personalization is one of them, for sure.

For example, based on the genetic test, scientists can not only say if it is worth trying electrostimulation for someone but also propose a treatment with personalized electrostimulation, which will work the best.

Also, I believe there will be more B2C products, which don’t require surgery and can reduce lower back pain, and treat depression or other diseases.

Even now, I see such devices, for example, ones treating tremors. They are built like a wristwatch, which creates electrical stimulation, and the tremors are decreased.

tremor device
www.baldonineuromodulation.com

Another direction is neuromodulation for professional athletes. They already use electrical stimulation to increment muscle strength and decrease fatigue, which is a competitive advantage. You can recover faster, or feel less pain, especially when we talk about long-distance sports like triathlon.

Also, I believe in the digitalization of medicine, and that very expensive medical equipment will be cheaper – starting from the mobile ultrasound machine.

Can you imagine buying a handheld ultrasound machine for yourself? Probably, now they cost around $30,000–50,000. But we are approaching a future where people could afford it.”

pulsetto logo
Our rating:
4.6
stars
  • Reduces high stress and anxiety levels
  • Can improve your mental health
  • Can improve sleep
Learn More

Sources

  1. Mental Health, by Saloni Dattani, Hannah Ritchie and Max Roser:
    https://ourworldindata.org/mental-health
  2. People seeking help: statistics:
    https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/explore-mental-health/mental-health-statistics/people-seeking-help-statistics
  3. Vagus Nerve Stimulation Clinical Outcomes Measured Prospectively in Patients Stimulated (V-COMPAS):
    https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT01281293
  4. Application of Noninvasive Vagal Nerve Stimulation to Stress-Related Psychiatric Disorders:
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7563188/
  5. Therapeutic Applications of Invasive Neuromodulation in Children and Adolescents:
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6092040/
  6. Transcutaneous auricular vagus nerve stimulation and heart rate variability. Analysis of parameters and targets:
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34662844/
  7. Vagus nerve, Physiopedia:
    https://www.physio-pedia.com/Vagus_Nerve
  8. Non-invasive vagus nerve stimulation boosts mood recovery after effort exertion: Psychological Medicine:
    https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/psychological-medicine/article/noninvasive-vagus-nerve-stimulation-boosts-mood-recovery-after-effort-exertion/62E2869B2C297FACA6752A05FB04BC49
  9. Application of Noninvasive Vagal Nerve Stimulation to Stress-Related Psychiatric Disorders:
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7563188/
  10. Transcutaneous cervical vagal nerve stimulation reduces sympathetic responses to stress in posttraumatic stress disorder:
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33344717/
  11. Pulsetto:
    https://pulsetto.tech/
  12. Neuromodulation tech developer Avivomed raises $32 million, names new CEO:
    https://www.bizjournals.com/twincities/inno/stories/fundings/2021/12/02/avivomed-raises-32-million-steve-masson-ceo.html
  13. U of M Udall Center secures $11.3M to continue Parkinson’s disease:
    https://med.umn.edu/news-events/u-m-udall-center-secures-113m-continue-parkinson%E2%80%99s-disease-and-deep-brain-stimulation-research-0
  14. MicroTransponder raises US$53 million and appoints new CEO:
    https://neuronewsinternational.com/microtransponder-raises-us53-million-and-appoints-new-ceo/
Written by Nadzeya Sankovich
Nadzeya Sankovich is the Vice President of Communications at Health Reporter. Previously a professional journalist, she continues to write scientific articles and conduct research. With a background in sociology and medicine, she has worked with various healthcare organizations, from charities to telemedicine platforms.

Nadzeya is also a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists and a volunteer for a non-profit organization that helps underserved communities. Through her work, she empowers people to take charge of their health and well-being.
The article was fact checked by Rosmy Barrios, MD
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