The vagus nerve is a major route of communication between the brain and the gut. Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) is a procedure whereby a small implanted device placed under the skin on a patient’s chest delivers an intermittent electrical impulse to the vagus nerve, which will travel up and down the nerve and into the brain and to the gut. VNS has shown beneficial effects in the treatment of epilepsy, and is also being evaluated for treating depression, migraine headaches and obesity in the general population. Dr. Holland (a psychiatrist specialising in intellectual disabilities based at Cambridge University and President of PWSA-UK) has evaluated VNS in three individuals with PWS. Two individuals reported markedly improved behavior. Based on the encouraging data from this small pilot study, Dr. Holland will be applying for funding for a larger, longer-term study from the UK government medical research funding agency. To help Dr. Holland and his team prepare for and be competitive to receive funding for the VNS trial in PWS, FPWR is providing financial support for some initial steps. A new research assistant will be hired to visit with PWS families around the UK and develop patient recruiting materials, including a DVD to help patients and their families learn about this potential treatment. These steps will help lay the groundwork for a successful trial of VNS in individuals with PWS.
Mechanistic insights into the genetics of affective psychosis from Prader-Willi syndrome. Aman LCS, Manning KE, Whittington JE, Holland AJ. Lancet Psychiatry. 2018 Apr;5(4):370-378.
Tony Holland, MRCP
University of Cambridge, UK