ASEF Young Minds

Study of the Mechanism and Effect of Non-Invasive Electrostimulation of the Vagus Cranial Nerve in Parkinson’s Disease

March 01, 2024 | 2:04 pm |

On Thursday, December 14, ASEF, in cooperation with the SiNAPSA association, organized a popular science lecture at the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Ljubljana as part of the ASEF young minds lecture series. This time the lecture was held by Vesna Marija van Midden, an ASEF 2020 junior fellow and a young researcher at the Neurology Clinic in Ljubljana.

We started the lecture with a presentation of the structure and function of the vagus nerve, which Vesna cleverly named the wandering nerve, as it is highly branched and animates the organs of the chest and abdominal cavity. It is the tenth cranial nerve and the main nerve of the parasympathetic nervous system.

She went on to talk about the role of dopamine and non-dopaminergic systems in Parkinson’s disease. After this explanation, she touched on the description of the goals of the research, which she is doing as part of her doctoral dissertation under the supervision of Assoc. prof. Maja Kojović and prof. Zvezdan Pirtošek. The research begins with the help of Transcutaneous auricular vagus stimulation of the vagus nerve (taVNS), for which the mechanism of action on the central nervous system was determined in healthy subjects and in patients with Parkinson’s disease. The next goal they wanted to achieve was to define the immediate (acute) effect of taVNS on L-dopa responsive and non-responsive gait characteristics in patients with Parkinson’s disease. The gait was then analyzed with two tests, the so-called “The stand and walk test” and “The double 360 turn”. The first conclusions are very optimistic: a greater activity of the cerebello-thalamo-cortical pathway was detected, walking speed, angular speed of the hands and step length improved acutely. These findings could greatly change the treatment and care of patients with Parkinson’s disease in the future.

Finally, the lecturer spoke about her ASEF research visit, which she made at Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois under the prof. Dimitri Krainc, MD, PhD, supervision. During the visit, she had the opportunity to deal with clinical observations, neurogenetics and the study of frequency spectrums during sleep.

The entire event was coordinated by Tina Logonder, an ASEF Junior Fellow of the 2023 generation.

The ASEF Young Minds project is supported by the Office of the Republic of Slovenia for Youth.

ASEF Junior Fellows ASEF Young Minds