How Vagus Nerve Stimulation Therapy Treats Depression
The Vagus Nerve Stimulation therapy is a technique to treat serious cases of depression along with the use of regular medicines. This technique tries to activate a major nerve center in our body with the help of electrical energy. This technique got its approval as valid depression treatment procedure from the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the year 2005. This article tries to gain further insight on this topic.
What is Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS) Therapy:
The Vegus nerve is present near the neck region. It is a very important nerve center. Because information about the state of various organs in the body and orders of the brain to them are passed through this nerve center. In VNS therapy, a pacemaker like device is inserted in the upper left chest of the depression patients body through an operation. The device is of a pocket watch size. It has a titanium generator powdered by a lithium battery. Two leads of the device are joined with the left branch of the vagus nerve. These leads stimulate the vagus nerve through electrical pulses at regular intervals, but safely. Devices which do not require surgery for insertion are being tested.
Basics to Understand the Treatment Procedure:
The human brain works with the help of its cells called neurons. There are billions of neurons in the brain. They function by passing electrical signals between each other. These electrical signals are send and received by components of the cells called receptors. These signals pass through cable like pathways called neurotransmitters between the cells. The signals are generated by natural chemical substances present in our body called hormones.
Changes in the levels of hormones is considered to be one of the main causes and mode of treatment for depression too. VNS therapy also tries to treat depression based on this believe. When cells do not pass proper signals between each other, depression may cause. This inability of the cells to generate signals is mostly due to inadequate production of hormones. If cells can be stimulated by external sources or mechanisms, then hormonal changes can be artificially started in the brain. This can ensure proper passing of the signals between the neurons(brain cells).
How Vagus Nerve Stimulation Therapy Treats Depression:
The exact process by which VNS therapy treats depression is not known yet. But it is believed that this therapy causes changes in an important chemical component in the brain called Norepinephrine. This chemical substance is a hormone and a neurotransmitter too. As a hormone, this chemical substance affects the parts of the brain associated with attention and response during stressful situations like depression. This substance is produced by another important hormone called dopamine. Dopamine is the hormone responsible for making us feel happy. The stimulation given by the VNS therapy device to the Vagus nerve increases the levels of Norepinephrine. This means the presence of dopamine hormone also simultaneously increases in the brain, making positive changes in the moods of the depression patients.