Transcutaneous Vagus Nerve Stimulation Combined with Robotic Rehabilitation Improves Upper Limb Function after Stroke

Fioravante Capone, Sandra Miccinilli, Giovanni Pellegrino, Loredana Zollo, Davide Simonetti, Federica Bressi, Lucia Florio, Federico Ranieri, Emma Falato, Alessandro Di Santo, Alessio Pepe, Eugenio Guglielmelli, Silvia Sterzi, Vincenzo Di Lazzaro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The efficacy of standard rehabilitative therapy for improving upper limb functions after stroke is limited; thus, alternative strategies are needed. Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) paired with rehabilitation is a promising approach, but the invasiveness of this technique limits its clinical application. Recently, a noninvasive method to stimulate vagus nerve has been developed. The aim of the present study was to explore whether noninvasive VNS combined with robotic rehabilitation can enhance upper limb functionality in chronic stroke. Safety and efficacy of this combination have been assessed within a proof-of-principle, double-blind, semirandomized, sham-controlled trial. Fourteen patients with either ischemic or haemorrhagic chronic stroke were randomized to robot-assisted therapy associated with real or sham VNS, delivered for 10 working days. Efficacy was evaluated by change in upper extremity Fugl-Meyer score. After intervention, there were no adverse events and Fugl-Meyer scores were significantly better in the real group compared to the sham group. Our pilot study confirms that VNS is feasible in stroke patients and can produce a slight clinical improvement in association to robotic rehabilitation. Compared to traditional stimulation, noninvasive VNS seems to be safer and more tolerable. Further studies are needed to confirm the efficacy of this innovative approach.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7876507
JournalNeural Plasticity
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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