Noninvasive vagus nerve stimulation in Parkinson's disease: current status and future prospects

Expert Rev Med Devices. 2021 Oct;18(10):971-984. doi: 10.1080/17434440.2021.1969913. Epub 2021 Sep 8.


Introduction: Parkinson's disease (PD) is a common progressive neurodegenerative disorder with multifactorial etiology. While dopaminergic medication is the standard therapy in PD, it provides limited symptomatic treatment and non-pharmacological interventions are currently being trialed.

Areas covered: Recent pathophysiological theories of Parkinson's suggest that aggregated α-synuclein form in the gut and spread to nuclei in the brainstem via autonomic connections. In this paper, we review the novel hypothesis that noninvasive vagus nerve stimulation (nVNS), targeting efferent and afferent vagal projections, is a promising therapeutic tool to improve gait and cognitive control and ameliorate non-motor symptoms in people with Parkinson's. We conducted an unstructured search of the literature for any studies employing nVNS in PD as well as for studies examining the efficacy of nVNS on improving cognitive function and where nVNS has been applied to co-occurring conditions in PD.

Expert opinion: Evidence of nVNS as a novel therapeutic to improve gait in PD is preliminary, but early signs indicate the possibility that nVNS may be useful to target dopa-resistant gait characteristics in early PD. The evidence for nVNS as a therapeutic tool is, however, limited and further studies are needed in both brain health and disease.

Keywords: Cognition; Parkinson’s disease; gait; neuroinflammation; vagus nerve stimulation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain
  • Humans
  • Parkinson Disease* / therapy
  • Vagus Nerve
  • Vagus Nerve Stimulation*