Medical Research

Transcutaneous Electrical Auricular Nerve Stim for Epilepsy

Kristen Sparrow • August 30, 2015

statue of Kuan Lin
Kuan Lin
Goddess of Compassion
“She who hears the cries of the world”

As some patients know, I’ve been experimenting with a home made ear stim device fashioned from a simple TENS unit, which I have been using in conjunction with traditional acupuncture treatment.  The reason for this is that it should give a boost to the vagal system, or the “rest and digest” arm of the autonomic nervous system.  My HRV monitoring should be able to detect that.  The paper cited here is the proposal to try 3 times a day ear stim for vagal stim in pediatric patients with epilepsy.  The study hasn’t been completed yet, so I will be watching with interest. (It looks like members of the same group found efficacy with the same system here.  They didn’t measure HRV or other measures in this first study, though.
Trials. 2015 Aug 21;16(1):371.



Recently, clinical observations reported the potential benefit of vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) for pediatric epilepsy. Transcutaneous auricular vagus nerve stimulation (ta-VNS) is a newer non-invasive VNS, making it more accessible for treating pediatric epilepsy, yet there is limited clinical evidence for its effectiveness.


A three-center, randomized, parallel, controlled trial will be carried out to evaluate whether ta-VNS improves pediatric epilepsy. Pediatric patients aged 2 to 14 years with epilepsy will be recruited and randomly assigned to transcutaneous auricular vagus nerve stimulation (ta-VNS) group, transcutaneous auricular non-vagus nerve stimulation (tan-VNS) group, and control group with a 1:1: sqrt(2) allocation, as per a computer generated randomization schedule stratified by study center using permuted blocks of random sizes. We will use Zelen’s design, in which randomization occurs before informed consent. Patients in the stimulation groups will receive tan-VNS or ta-VNS three times a day for 6 months. Patients in the control group will not be provided with any stimulation during the 6 months. The guardians of the patients are required to keep a detailed diary to record the data. Outcome assessment including seizure frequency, electroencephalogram (EEG), heart rate variability (HRV) analysis, quality of life (QOL) and adverse events will be made at baseline and 2, 4 and 6 months after ta-VNS initiation. The seizure frequency and adverse events will be followed up at 1 year and 1.5 years after ta-VNS initiation.


Results of this trial will help clarify whether ta-VNS treatment is beneficial for pediatric patients, and will make clear whether the anticonvulsive effect of ta-VNS is correlated with the improvement of sympathovagal imbalance.