Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a condition that often comes with a burden of memory-related challenges. People with PTSD may struggle with memory recall and attention. Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS) has shown promise in enhancing cognitive functions when combined with specific tasks.
A clinical trial investigated the impact of transcutaneous cervical VNS (tcVNS) on attention, declarative, and working memory in individuals with PTSD. Fifteen individuals with PTSD were randomly divided into two groups: one received active tcVNS (8 participants), and the other received sham (simulated) tcVNS (7 participants). The study was double-blinded, meaning neither the participants nor the researchers knew who received active or sham stimulation. Memory assessments were performed to evaluate declarative and working memory, including paragraph recall and N-back tests. At the same time, participants self-administered tcVNS or sham twice daily over a longitudinal two-month study period.
The active tcVNS group showed significant improvements in paragraph recall performance after pairing with paragraph encoding at the two-month mark. This translated to a remarkable 91% increase in paragraph recall performance within the group. In contrast, the sham tcVNS group did not exhibit such an upward trend in performance. Regarding the N-back study, there were positive trends in accuracy, precision, and recall measures on various days (7, 34, 64, 94) for the active tcVNS group compared to the sham VNS group. However, these differences did not reach statistical significance. It's important to note that this study had a relatively small sample size, which could influence the reliability of the results.
tcVNS can potentially enhance attention, declarative, and working memory in individuals with PTSD. These improvements could significantly impact their overall quality of life and productivity. However, it's crucial to remember that this is just a starting point, and more extensive research is needed to confirm these results. Understanding the positive impact of tcVNS on memory functions in PTSD patients opens doors to potential therapies that could improve their cognitive abilities and ultimately enhance their well-being. Further studies will help unlock the full potential of this promising intervention.