BOB HIRSHON (host):
The way to patients’ hearts could be through their ears. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.
Mild electrical stimulation to a flap of earlobe called the tragus could improve heart function, according to University of Leeds researcher Jenny Clancy and her colleagues.
JENNY CLANCY (University of Leeds):
The nerve that slows down your heartrate after you’ve been exercising is called the vagus nerve and it also has a little branch that goes to the skin of the ear, so that’s a really easy place to access the vagus nerve and stimulate it and affect the nerve control of the heart.
In the journal Brain Stimulation, she reports that the technique improved the heart rhythms of 34 healthy volunteers. Next, they plan to try it on cardiac patients. She says the ear stimulation wouldn’t replace existing drugs and therapies, but might augment them, and help stabilize heart rhythms in patients after cardiac events. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the Science Society.