Vagus Nerve Stimulation for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in 2021 review by the Psychological Health Center of Excellence of the Department of Defense

The Psychological Health Center of Excellence of the Defense Health Agency in the Department of Defense has released a Psych Health Evidence Brief on the use of vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Although the 2021 brief falls short of recommending VNS for treatment of PTSD, it shows recognition of a treatment approach that is gaining rapid momentum even just since 2020.[1]

In fact, transcutaneous auricular vagus nerve stimulation (taVNS) is treatment approach that is approved and funded by the Department of Defense for trauma and trauma-related treatment, just under another name: Battlefield Acupuncture (also known as NADA protocol or AcuDetox). This protocol, based on 5 auricular reflex zones, is also used as a detox protocol in VA Medical Center settings.

The direct relationship between VNS and the 5-point NADA/AcuDetox protocol is the stimulation of the reflex zone of the lung on the microsystem of the ear. Often, when active, the reflex zone of the Nucleus Tractus Solitarius (NTS) aspect of the vagus nerve — involved in fight-or-flight mode[2] and also according to polyvagal theory[3] — is projected in the concha at the reflex zone of the lung.



[1] Psychological Health Center of Excellence Psych Health Evidence Brief on Vagus Nerve Stimulation for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Defense Health Agency website. March 2021. Accessed November 9, 2021.

[2] Godoy L., Rossignoli, M., Delfino-Pereira, P., Garcia-Cairasco, N., de Lima Umeoka, E. A Comprehensive Overview on Stress Neurobiology: Basic Concepts and Clinical Implications. Front. Behav. Neurosci. 2018;12(127):3-4.

[3] Porges SW. The polyvagal theory: new insights into adaptive reactions of the autonomic nervous system. Cleve Clin J Med. 2009;76 Suppl 2(Suppl 2):S86-S90. doi:10.3949/ccjm.76.s2.17

[4] Carter K, Olshan-Perlmutter M. NADA Protocol: Integrative Acupuncture in Addictions. Journal of Addictions & Nursing. 2014;25(4):182-187.


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