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Transcutaneous Cervical Vagus Nerve Magnetic Stimulation in Patients With Traumatic Brain Injury: A Feasibility Study.

OBJECTIVES: Transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation has shown promising results in improving cognitive and motor function after stroke. However, to our knowledge, there have been no studies in the modulation of the cervical vagus nerve using repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) in patients with traumatic brain injury (TBI) with cognitive dysfunction. Thus, we conducted a single-arm feasibility trial to assess the safety and effectiveness of rTMS of the vagus nerve in patients with TBI.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: We enrolled ten patients with TBI and administered half-hour vagus nerve magnetic stimulation (VNMS) sessions for ten days to evaluate the feasibility of the treatment. The Montreal cognitive assessment-Beijing (MoCA-B), the Digit Span Test, and the Auditory Verbal Learning Test (AVLT) were used to measure cognitive function before and after the VNMS treatment. Physiological parameters of all subjects were assessed by electrocardiogram.

RESULTS: The findings showed that daily half-hour VNMS for ten days was feasible in patients with TBI, with minimal side effects and no clinically significant effects on physiological parameters. Eight patients showed improvement in MoCA-B, and five patients showed improvement in immediate memory as measured by AVLT.

CONCLUSIONS: We conclude that VNMS is a safe and feasible treatment option for patients with TBI with cognitive dysfunction. However, further controlled studies are necessary to establish the efficacy of VNMS in promoting cognitive recovery after TBI.

SIGNIFICANCE: This study is, to our knowledge, the first study to investigate the feasibility of VNMS for cognitive dysfunction in patients with TBI. Our findings offer the possibility of rTMS applied to the vagus nerve in clinical practice.

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