Scientists at The Feinstein Institutes of Bioelectronic Medicine are developing new techniques that target more precise, and selective neuromodulation.

The scientists recently published a research paper on Brain Stimulation, which showed that high-frequency electrical stimulation activates specific sensory fibres of the vagus nerve.

In addition, the approach facilitates better targeting and treatment of inflammation and disease, said the publication.

The research study was led by Feinstein Institutes Institute of Bioelectronic Medicine associate professor Stavros Zanos.

In the study, Zanos measured the effect of vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) using kHz stimulation, on the activity of different types of vagal fibres.

The kHz stimulation is an electrical stimulus commonly used to obstruct nerve conduction at a range of more than 1,000 pulses per second.

Senior author of the paper Zanos said: “The vagus nerve is one of the most important nerves in our body, which helps us maintain our daily functions like breathing and our heart rate. Being able to target certain nerve fibres is a huge step for precision stimulation.

“This selective stimulation in the vagus nerve has not been achieved until now, and our results will help researchers find new therapies to treat diseases.”

The vagus nerve is responsible for maintaining bodily functions, such as digestion, heart rate, respiratory rate, and certain reflex actions, along with the immune response.

It serves as an information pipeline in the body, and its overactivity or underactivity may lead to inflammatory diseases.

Electrically stimulating the vagus nerve is said to have the potential to treat inflammatory diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and diabetes.

According to the publication, previous VNS therapies would bluntly stimulate the whole nerve, without targeting specific fibres, causing adverse effects and less effective therapy.

Zanos and his team have consistently activated the small unmyelinated nerve fibres, by stimulating the vagus nerve at high frequency.

The approach eliminated the activation of large fibres in the nerve, which usually gets activated first by VNS and causes the most unwanted side effects.

Furthermore, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has recently awarded $6.7m financing for the Feinstein Institutes to develop a detailed map of the human vagus nerve anatomy.

Feinstein Institutes president and CEO Kevin J Tracey said: “Dr Zanos discovered how to selectively activate nerve fibres travelling in the vagus nerve by manipulating the electric frequency.

“This work significantly advances the field of bioelectronic medicine and opens new pathways to explore experimental therapeutics.”