The vagus nerve, also referred to as the tenth cranial nerve, starts at the medulla oblongata, a cone shaped part of the brainstem. Often known as the great “wandering” nerve, the longest in our body, it forms an information superhighway between the brain and all of our major organs.
Experimental stimulation of the vagus nerve has been widely explored in medical research and is successful in the treatment of epilepsy and drug resistant depression and is looking very promising for inflammatory conditions such as sepsis, lung injury, rheumatoid arthritis, and diabetes. Driven by such findings, we are now taking forward the potential of vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) as a therapeutic intervention in the case of stress and anxiety.
We are using Heart Rate Variability (HRV) as a the marker for detection of stress. HRV is simply a measure of the variation in time between each heartbeat and is controlled by the autonomic nervous system (ANS), which regulates our heart rate, blood pressure, breathing and digestion. HRV reflects the ability of the heart to respond to different situations and can react to stress or illness before any changes in resting heart rate are seen. This makes it a very powerful signal providing insights in stress and recovery status.
We are also developing new biomarkers obtained from electroencephalogram (EEG) signal analysis,. We are interested in the changes across the five frequency bandwidths: (delta, theta, alpha, beta and gamma). Alpha rhythm power decreases under stress conditions, while beta rhythm power increases. The ratio of theta over beta power (theta/beta ratio) also increases as does the activity in the prefrontal cortex compared to the left hand side.
Combined these biomarkers give us a powerful picture of stress, all collected from a single ear piece.
Stress is a common feature of our modern lives and whilst some of us are quite resilient and bounce back quickly, for many our bodies do not get enough time to recover from a stressful event before the next one happens. After a while it seems our switch to stop producing cortisol, one of our main stress hormones gets damaged and is left on.
The constant release of cortisol drives the ongoing release of glucose to provide energy to deal with a perceived threat and priroitises this over energy for our immune and digestive systems. Over time this can make us feel depressed, tired and can lead to reduced heart, gut and immune function. In other words we develop chronic mental and physical health problems.
Our mission is to help everyone get a visual picture of their stress levels.