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Discovery

BBC World Service

Science & Medicine

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Science & Medicine 36

Explorations in the world of science.

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Vagus Nerve

December 8th, 2014

Episode 428 of 564 episodes

Many people are living with chronic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel conditions in which the body attacks itself. Although drug treatments have improved over recent years they do not work for everyone and can have serious side effects. Now researchers such as neurologist Dr Kevin Tracey of the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, and rheumatologist professor Paul-Peter Tak of Amsterdam University, are trying a new approach to improving the lives of these patients. They are firing electrical pulses along the vagus nerve, a major nerve that connects the brain with all the organs. The technology to do this has been around for some decades as stimulating the vagus nerve has been used to help people who have epilepsy that is not controlled with drugs since the 1990s. Gaia Vince talks to these pioineers of this new field of research. And, she hears how there may be ways of improving the tone of the vagal nerve using meditation. (Image: Vagus Nerve Stimulation. Credit: Getty Images)

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