Transcutaneous auricular vagus nerve stimulation enhances short-latency afferent inhibition via central cholinergic system activation

Sci Rep. 2024 May 16;14(1):11224. doi: 10.1038/s41598-024-61958-8.


The present study examined the effects of transcutaneous auricular vagus nerve stimulation (taVNS) on short-latency afferent inhibition (SAI), as indirect biomarker of cholinergic system activation. 24 healthy adults underwent intermittent taVNS (30 s on/30 s off, 30 min) or continuous taVNS at a frequency of 25 Hz (15 min) along with earlobe temporary stimulation (15 min or 30 min) were performed in random order. The efficiency with which the motor evoked potential from the abductor pollicis brevis muscle by transcranial magnetic stimulation was attenuated by the preceding median nerve conditioning stimulus was compared before taVNS, immediately after taVNS, and 15 min after taVNS. Continuous taVNS significantly increased SAI at 15 min post-stimulation compared to baseline. A positive correlation (Pearson coefficient = 0.563, p = 0.004) was observed between baseline SAI and changes after continuous taVNS. These results suggest that 15 min of continuous taVNS increases the activity of the cholinergic nervous system, as evidenced by the increase in SAI. In particular, the increase after taVNS was more pronounced in those with lower initial SAI. This study provides fundamental insight into the clinical potential of taVNS for cholinergic dysfunction.

PMID:38755234 | PMC:PMC11099104 | DOI:10.1038/s41598-024-61958-8