DIY Transcutaneous Vagus Nerve Stimulator

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Introduction: DIY Transcutaneous Vagus Nerve Stimulator

Introduction

Transcutaneous Vagus Nerve Stimulation is a relatively new concept based on the more invasive implantable Vagus Nerve Stimulation devices. Originally, the implantable devices would require surgery to put a battery and nerve stimulator in your neck to treat epilepsy or severe depression.

Some suggested applications of Vagus Nerve Stimulation now include:
- Treatment of Anxiety, Depression
- Stimulation of the Migrating Motor Complex in the digestive system to help issues such as Irritable Bowel, Small Intestine Bacteria Overgrowth, Delayed Gastric emptying
- Reducing pain and inflammation in the body (maybe because of MMC improvements)
- dampening Tinnitus
- reduction of atrial fibrillation symptoms

Obviously do your own research on the potential benefits. While the implanted device does has some research favoring its use, the transcutaneous approach has less scientific studies. The main study as of December 2019 is the following, which uses a modified TENS device to stimulate the vagus nerve by attaching a clip to the tragus of the ear, which contains a branch of the vagus nerve.

https://www.aging-us.com/article/102074/text

The afib study is below, and it uses a device to treat tinnitus:
https://www.medpagetoday.com/meetingcoverage/hrs/7...

The device that afib study used is here:
https://www.parasym.co/parasym-device-transcutaneo...

Obviously, that device is a bit pricey, but we can replicate the device using cheaper options.

Disclaimers: transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation's benefits haven't been validated by the FDA, and there's no promise of a cure of any condition. When using TENS units, please read the instructions and precautions.

Supplies

Here's what you need:

1) A TENS Unit that will let you set the frequency, pulse width, and intensity. This one, I like because it also has the microcurrent mode (think Alpha-Stim), but you can get anything in their InTENSity line that has the TENS mode.
TENSpros.com InTENSity Micro Combo unit

2) 2 pairs of ear clips
tenspros.com black ear clip electrodes

Note: you can order the ear clips with your TENS device and probably save 50%

3) A Dremel or Rotary device with a cut-off wheel attachment
Example of a Cut off wheel

4) Super Glue - any will do.

Step 1: Disassemble One of Two Ear Clips

You should have 4 one-sided ear clips to start with. We're going to make two double-sided ear clips out of them.

So, set aside the first two. We're just gonna take them apart and keep the side with the electrode on it. The flat side with no electrode can be discarded.

Step 2: Cut Off the Non-Electrode End of One Side of the Clip.

With the two remaining clips, we need to cut off the circular end of the non-electrode side of the clip. This is where the other electrode will go.

With a Dremel or tool of your choice, carefully remove just the circular part of the non-electrode side of two clips.

Step 3: Glue the Electrodes Together

You want to take one of the electrodes in step #1 and glue it to one of the electrodes from Step #2.

Line up the two electrodes as best you can so that they a) face each other and b) touch when closed.

You'll want to stick a pencil or some sort of brace in the middle of the clips to keep them open while the glue is drying. Super Glue works fine. Just make them look like the photos above.

Step 4: Insert the TENS Wires

The InTENsity Micro Combo unit has two wires from each channel. Put one red and one back wire on either side of the ear clip as pictured above.

Step 5: Clip to the Tragus of Your Ear and Turn on the Device

Clip the electrodes to your ears as shown. get them wet by rubbing water on the surfaces to improve conduction

On the TENS unit, set the unit to TENS
- N (Normal, constant current)
- Pulse Width 200 microseconds
- Frequency 30Hz
- Time 20 minutes

Use the up Arrows to turn the device on - you will feel a prickly sensation in your ears. Go as high as you can tolerate, then back down one notch and leave it there for the duration.

3 People Made This Project!

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28 Comments

0
GWestmorland
GWestmorland

Question 5 weeks ago on Introduction

V interesting and helpful.
How critical are the precision of the Pulse Width and Pulse Rate settings?
I have an old Tens machine (Everyway N603) that has no display and just very small rotary controls for these settings.
So I can set Pulse Width to about halfway between 180 and 220, as 200 isn't marked.
Pulse Rate setting is much harder as it is a logarithmic scale, and the nearest markings are 20 and 70 Hz.
Am I safe to use this, and guess the correct control position the best I can?

0
elliot358
elliot358

3 months ago

I used kitchen scissors to cut off the circular end on one clip and a little kitchen knife to open up the hinge in the other clip and to cut off bits of plastic that (rightly or wrongly) I thought might get in the way of the gluing. You don't need fancy equipment to make this.

Does anyone know if this essentially re-creates the (very expensive) Parasym device? Here's a link to their quick start guide: https://files8.webydo.com/92/9224583/UploadedFiles/B4104A87-D5D8-0E0B-53F1-E81981E2B14F.pdf

They recommend the settings shown below (please click on the added image to see it properly).

The intensity/pulse amplitude goes up in 1mA steps, with the maximum being 36mA. The instructions on how to get to the right intensity seem similar to me.

One difference appears to be that the waveform is bi-phase square pulse (rather than mono-phase square pulse), which presumably explains why it doesn't matter which way round the Parasym clip goes on the ear.

Finally, I have seen plenty of references in academic papers to using a SINGLE clip on the LEFT ear only, so for now at least I have only made one double clip from a set of two clips. How do we know if a single clip on the right ear or clips on both ears is safe?

Thanks.

SnipImage.JPG
0
drdux
drdux

Reply 8 weeks ago

The Salustim is the predecessor of the Parasym. It's output was a symmetric, biphasic rectangular waveform. Which Is EXACTLY what a TENS device outputs. The Salustim had a fixed pulse rate of 25 Hz and fixed pulse width of 250 μs. Both of which are within the range of any adjustable TENS device. So basically, the Salustim IS a fixed output TENS device.

0
bornbranded29
bornbranded29

8 months ago

Hi. Thanks for doing this project. I bought the Intensity Micro Combo. Do you have some settings for the microcurrent, if one is interested in using it like the alpha stim?

0
mark.erzen
mark.erzen

Reply 8 months ago

You want it in “M” mode with a pulse width as high as it’ll go and a pulse rate between 0.5 and 100HZ

Usually alpha stim starts you out at 100hz, then you drop to 1 or .5hz

Their pulse width varies between .25, .5, .75, and 1s. Best we can do here is the M mode at 200ms, but it will vary the pw from there.

383670B2-62A9-4F02-BC8A-44C35DC91B77.jpeg
0
gioconda80
gioconda80

Reply 3 months ago

Thanks for this info Mark! I also want to know If you place the cable in just one channel or in both? I also want to mimic the alpha stim :)

0
bornbranded29
bornbranded29

Reply 6 months ago

Thanks so much. I appreciate all the info. I've been using it with success under M1, but now I see M is the correct setting. Does that make any difference? Also, I set up the electrodes for Vagus Nerve Stimulation. Is saline necessary or just regular water? Also, could you explain why the anode and cathode need to be on each side of the tragus?

0
cgeidenb
cgeidenb

4 months ago

Youtube video shows how to attach both clips of a single pair to the left ear. How does altering the clips in this way add anything? Seems like one can do the stimulation without requiring alteration of two pairs. Agree with other comment that just because you can doesnt mean you should.

0
Anjjan
Anjjan

Question 5 months ago

Hi
I have followed your instructions to make the ear clips, however the output of my TENS machine won't increase above 00 when I open the earclips - i.e. to clip them on. Having consulted the 'trouble shooting' for my TENS machine, the 'error' is due to an open circuit, so the machine cuts off the output.
Any ideas?
Thanks

0
mark.erzen
mark.erzen

Answer 5 months ago

Does your machine work with the standard pads that came with it? Also, you may want to wet the electrodes a bit to ensure that they conduct well.

0
Anjjan
Anjjan

Reply 4 months ago

Hi Mark
Yes - the machine does work with the pads it came with. And it works with the modernised ear clips closed - and not attached to my ears.
As soon as the ear clips are opened the unit stops working.
Anj x

0
planedriver
planedriver

Reply 4 months ago

You can also try using electrode gel, sometimes also called EEG or ECG gel.

1
643
643

6 months ago

Mark, thank you so very much for posting this bit of brilliance! I dusted off my old TENS and just ordered my ear clips. I'm excited to give this a try, because as you say, I don't have $600+ to spend on the commercially available stimulators. Have you attempted to monitor any changes in HRV over time via wearable trackers (oura, fitbit...)?

0
AllaDelo
AllaDelo

Question 8 months ago

I was informed that only pulse should be used with vagus nerve stimulation.
I have not yet used my TENS machine... I have the exact one pictured in the article.
So my question is... It is shown to use "normal" (constant current) setting for use with vagus then set a "pulse"

Is this correct?... It is confusing as Normal says it is a constant current... But pulse is within that setting.

0
mark.erzen
mark.erzen

Answer 8 months ago

Normal is a constant pulse rate. It still gives you pulses, but the rate of the pulse won’t vary in Normal mode.

0
jeweed
jeweed

11 months ago

You are my hero, thank you for figuring this out for those of us on fixed budget and closed minded doctors.

0
marian100170
marian100170

Question 1 year ago

Hello,
Please, should it be used on both ears or on just one?
Thanks!

0
mark.erzen
mark.erzen

Answer 12 months ago

I do both ears

0
marian100170
marian100170

Reply 12 months ago

Thanks, I feel that only the left ear has no effect. Instead, I feel the immediate effect on both ears. I assembled exactly the components described by you and for me this taVNS has better results than tDCS. Thanks for sharing!

0
Nick_fi
Nick_fi

1 year ago

This method gave me burns and brain fog...