Transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation: a new strategy for Alzheimer's disease intervention through the brain-gut-microbiota axis?

Front Aging Neurosci. 2024 Feb 27:16:1334887. doi: 10.3389/fnagi.2024.1334887. eCollection 2024.


Transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation (tVNS) is an emerging non-invasive technique designed to stimulate branches of the vagus nerve distributed over the body surface. Studies suggest a correlation between the brain-gut-microbiota (BGM) axis and the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease (AD). The BGM axis represents a complex bidirectional communication system, with the vagus nerve being a crucial component. Therefore, non-invasive electrical stimulation of the vagus nerve might have the potential to modify-most of the time probably in a non-physiological way-the signal transmission within the BGM axis, potentially influencing the progression or symptoms of AD. This review explores the interaction between percutaneous vagus nerve stimulation and the BGM axis, emphasizing its potential effects on AD. It examines various aspects, such as specific brain regions, gut microbiota composition, maintenance of intestinal environmental homeostasis, inflammatory responses, brain plasticity, and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis regulation. The review suggests that tVNS could serve as an effective strategy to modulate the BGM axis and potentially intervene in the progression or treatment of Alzheimer's disease in the future.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; HPA axis; brain-gut-microbiota axis; microbiota; transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation.

Publication types

  • Review

Grants and funding

The author(s) declare that financial support was received for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article. This study was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China, Youth Science Foundation Project (no. 81704148) and the Tianjin Appropriate Technology Promotion Project for Chinese Medicine Rehabilitation Services. The funders had no role on the design of this study.