Vagus nerve stimulation to address various gastrointestinal conditions is already an approved FDA therapy. While effective in many people, it is hard to understand the mechanism of such treatment and to tune it well for each individual patient. Researchers at Purdue University are now utilizing MRI scanning to actually see what effect nerve stimulation has on the stomach.
The team manipulated the pyloric sphincter, which controls stomach emptying, in lab rats by stimulating the vagus nerve. At the same time, they used an MRI scanner to image the activity of the stomach. Animations were created using the scans that demonstrated that the stimulation indeed relaxed the pyloric sphincter.
The researchers envision patients coming in for one or more sessions in an MRI machine, in order to test different stimulation protocols and to narrow down which are the most effective for a given patient.
“Some stimulation protocols for the stomach in humans already have FDA approval, but they’ve proved only partially effective,” said Terry Powley, Purdue’s Distinguished Professor of Neuroscience and the director of the SPARC (Stimulating Peripheral Activity to Relieve Conditions) project. The researchers hope that their approach will open the possibilities of nerve stimulation for other GI conditions.
Here’s a video from Purdue about the research: