The possibility of reducing undesirable inflammatory responses in humans by electrical stimulation of the peripheral nervous system motivates this research.


Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) is an FDA-approved treatment option for patients with drug-resistant temporal lobe epilepsy or major depressive disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD). VNS shows promise in treating autoimmune inflammatory disorders (e.g., rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease and systemic lupus erythematosus), but the exact science of the neurophysiology of the body during VNS treatment remains unclear. This project aims to demonstrate control of inflammation by reducing the release of inflammatory cytokines by the spleen. The reduction of the release of inflammatory cytokines is hypothesized to come about indirectly from stimulation of the Vagus nerve (or its peripherals). Individual patients respond differently to a given stimulation and may respond differently to a given stimulation over a period of time such that there is not a “one-size-fits-all” approach to VNS.

The primary goal of this effort is to create new knowledge about the anatomy and function of neurophysiological circuits and to leverage that knowledge to improve VNS system design. This program seeks to develop fundamental understanding of the anatomy and physiology of the spinal cord and peripheral nerves to design and demonstrate feedback-controlled neuromodulation systems for the direct regulation of immune system functions and central nervous system (CNS) disorders. Technology development focused on the next-generation minimally-invasive neural interfaces and biosensors will enable interaction with the body with unmatched performance. The CID’s wirelessly powered Bionode platform will be used to run an autonomous control algorithm while performing simultaneous cytokine measurements to determine the optimal stimulation protocol for control of the immune response, and map the physiology of the process. The resulting neuromodulation treatments will be tuned automatically and continuously to the unique physiology of each individual.

  • Project Researchers: Jesse Soman