VNS therapy is delivered from a small pacemaker-like device implanted in the chest area that sends mild pulses to the brain via the vagus nerve in the neck. A thin, thread-like wire attached to the generator runs under the skin to the left vagus nerve. Stimulation of the left vagus nerve has been shown to induce widespread bilateral effects in areas of the brain implicated in seizures and mood disorders and responsible for modulation of key neurotransmitters such as serotonin and norepinephrine. It is through this mechanism that both mood and cognition show improvement.

McInerney, M.D., associate professor of neurosurgery, and director of stereotactic and functional neurosurgery und Farace, Ph.D., neuropsychologist, associate professor of neurosurgery and director of clinical research, conducted a trial with twelve patients with treatment-resistant depression, a form of the disease that does not respond to conventional therapy, including antidepressant medications, talk therapy and electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).

All of the patients in the study had suffered from recurrent depression, often involving hospitalisation for suicidal thoughts, for over 20 years without relief from any other available treatment. When compared to their baseline function at three and twelve months post-implantation of a vagus nerve stimulator, all of the patients showed statistically significant improvements in mood as well as cognitive abilities, such as memory, attention, and problem solving.

The New Investigators’ Award Program is specifically designed for individuals who are new to the field of clinical research in psychopharmacology and other novel approaches to treating mental illness and have made remarkable discoveries within the industry.; Source: Penn State University