Brain Imaging Shows How Vagus Nerve Stimulation Improves Symptoms of Depression
Importantly, the researchers also found that VNS affected other deeper structures in the brain, many of which have high concentrations of brain cells that release dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers and also helps regulate emotional responses. This supports a growing consensus in the field that problems in dopamine pathways may be particularly important in treatment-resistant depression, explains Conway. And he said the finding that vagus nerve stimulators influence those pathways may explain why the therapy can help and why, when it works, its effects are not transient. Patients who respond to VNS tend to get better and stay better.
The study findings were published online on Feb. 15, 2013 in Brain Stimulation.