Some readers may already know that stimulating vagus nerves in the ear can help relieve pain in other parts of the body,media New Atlas reported. Thanks to new research by Austrian scientists, the treatment may soon be more effective than ever. The vagus nerve is the longest nerve in the cranial nerve, which runs through the brain through the face to the chest and abdomen. Its fibers extend to all parts of the body, including the outer ear. Therefore, if pain occurs in one of the connected parts of the body, the problem can sometimes be solved by electrically stimulating the vagus nerve. This is done by placing electrodes in the ear.
That is, the optimal position of these electrodes is key. “It is important not to affect any blood vessels, and the electrodes must be placed at the right distance from the nerves,” said Professor Eugenijus Kaniusas of the Technical University of Vienna. “If the electrodes are too far away, the nerves are not stimulated at all. If you get too close, the signal is too strong, which can cause nerve obstruction. Over time, nerves become ‘tired’ and eventually stop sending signals to the brain. “
Blood vessels can be seen by lighting the ears from behind. However, nerve fibers are not shown. Typically, doctors estimate their location based on past experience. With this in mind, a team from the Technical University of Vienna and the Medical University of Vienna began with high-resolution cross-sectional images of the body’s ears, in which blood vessels and nerve fibers can be seen. Using this data, they built a three-dimensional computer model of a typical human ear that accurately showed the relationship between nerve fibers and blood vessels that were easy to image.
In addition, the model can be used to determine the strength and pattern of electrical impulses for a particular patient to determine the best results for a particular patient.
Under the guidance of the technique, the researchers set out to place tiny needle-like electrodes precisely in the ears of test subjects with chronic pain. It was found that the therapeutic effect was more effective than traditional vagus nerve stimulation.
The study was presented in a recent paper published in the journal Frontiers in Neuroanatomy.