Cardiac and Peripheral Autonomic Responses to Orthostatic Stress During Transcutaneous Vagus Nerve Stimulation in Healthy Subjects

Eleonora Tobaldini, Edgar Toschi-Dias, Liliane Appratto de Souza, Karina Rabello Casali, Marco Vicenzi, Giulia Sandrone, Chiara Cogliati, Maria Teresa La Rovere, Gian Domenico Pinna, Nicola Montano

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Previous studies showed that transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation (tVNS) modulates the autonomic nervous system (ANS) in resting condition. However, the autonomic regulation in response to an orthostatic challenge during tVNS in healthy subjects remains unknown. We tested the hypothesis that tVNS reduces heart rate (HR) and alters the responsivity of ANS to orthostatic stress in healthy subjects. In a randomized and cross-over trial, thirteen healthy subjects underwent two experimental sessions on different days: (1) tVNS and (2) control. Using a tVNS device, an auricular electrode was placed on the left cymba conchae of the external ear; an electric current with a pulse frequency of 25 Hz and amplitude between 1 and 6 mA was applied. For the assessment of ANS, the beat-to-beat HR and systolic arterial pressure (SAP) were analyzed using linear and nonlinear approaches during clinostatic and orthostatic conditions. In clinostatic conditions, tVNS reduced HR (p < 0.01), SAP variability (p < 0.01), and cardiac and peripheral sympathetic modulation (p < 0.01). The responsivity of the peripheral sympathetic modulation to orthostatic stress during tVNS was significantly higher when compared to the control session (p = 0.03). In conclusion, tVNS reduces the HR and affects cardiac and peripheral autonomic control and increases the responses of peripheral autonomic control to orthostatic stress in healthy subjects.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberE496
JournalJournal of Clinical Medicine
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 11 2019


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