Vagus Nerve Stimulation: What are the Benefits and How Does It Relieve Depression?

Vagus nerve stimulation is more effective than antidepressants and is not related to brain surgery or shock treatments. It is a 60-90 minute out-patient procedure, with robust antidepressant affects on the brain.

The implant procedure is performed by a surgeon. A pacemaker-like device is implanted in your upper left chest. One lead wire is tunneled underneath your skin and coiled around the left vagus nerve in your neck.

The vagus nerve has a direct pathway to hypothalmus and hippocampus in the brain. The implanted generator is programmed to send impulses to the vagus nerve. Stimulating the vagus nerve has been proven to favorably modulate those areas of the brain responsible for mood and depression. There are no pain fibers in the vagus nerve. The patient in the first few weeks after implant, slight voice alteration when the generator sends impulses to the nerve. The nerve gets used to the stimulation and the side effects, if any, disipate over time.

This is a therapy for for patients who suffer from chronic or treatment-resistant depression, for which antidepressants drugs have not adequately relieved their depression.

The FDA's Medical Devices Panel approved vagus nerve stimulation therapy. Final approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expected by the end of June.

You can learn more at There is a free newsletter to keep you up-to-date on the latest developments.

Charles Donovan was a study study subject in the FDA investigational trial of vagus nerve stimulation and chronic depression. He is the author of Out of the Black Hole: The Patient's Guide to Vagus Nerve Stimulation and Depression and founder of the Web site.

Out of the Black Hole: The Patient's Guide to Vagus Nerve Stimulation and Depression is available on, Barnes & and at

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