Influence of transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation on cardiac vagal activity: Not different from sham stimulation and no effect of stimulation intensity

Journal article


Borges, U, Laborde, S and Raab, M (2019). Influence of transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation on cardiac vagal activity: Not different from sham stimulation and no effect of stimulation intensity. PLoS ONE. 14 (10), pp. e0223848-e0223848.
AuthorsBorges, U, Laborde, S and Raab, M
Abstract

© 2019 Borges et al. The present study investigated the effects of transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation on cardiac vagal activity, the activity of the vagus nerve regulating cardiac functioning. We applied stimulation on the left cymba conchae and tested the effects of different stimulation intensities on a vagally-mediated heart rate variability parameter (i.e., the root mean square of successive differences) as well as on subjective ratings of strength of perceived stimulation intensity and unpleasantness due to the stimulation. Three experiments (within-subject designs, M = 61 healthy participants each) were carried out: In Experiment 1, to choose one fixed stimulation intensity for the subsequent studies, we compared three preset stimulation intensities (i.e., 0.5, 1.0 and 1.5 mA) with each other. In Experiment 2, we compared the set stimulation method with the free stimulation method, in which the participants were instructed to freely choose an intensity. In Experiment 3, to control for placebo effects, we compared both methods (i.e., set stimulation vs. free stimulation) with their respective sham stimulations. In the three experiments, an increase of cardiac vagal activity was found from resting to the stimulation phases. However, this increase in cardiac vagal activity was not dependent on stimulation intensity (Experiment 1), the method used to stimulate (i.e., set vs. free; Experiment 2), or whether stimulation was active or sham (Experiment 3). This pattern of results was solidly supported by Bayesian estimations. On the subjective level, higher stimulation intensities were perceived as significantly stronger and a stronger stimulation was generally also perceived as more unpleasant. The results suggest that cardiac vagal activity may be similarly influenced by afferent vagal stimuli triggered by active and sham stimulation with different stimulation intensities. Potential explanations for these findings and its implications for future research with tVNS are discussed.

Year2019
JournalPLoS ONE
Journal citation14 (10), pp. e0223848-e0223848
PublisherPublic Library of Science (PLoS)
ISSN1932-6203
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0223848
Publication dates
Print01 Jan 2019
Online11 Oct 2019
Publication process dates
Deposited12 Feb 2020
Publisher's version
License
CC BY 4.0
File Access Level
Open
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https://openresearch.lsbu.ac.uk/item/88zv0

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