Weekend BioRxiv Preprint Review: Modulation of Body Mass Composition using Vestibular Nerve Stimulation

The "set point" theory of hunger, eating and body weight maintains that everyone has a "normal" body weight as set by the brain's hypothalamus. Weight loss medications sometimes have been suggested in an attempt to affect this "set point" for weight control.

The paper below asserts that stimulation of the vestibular system of the inner ear with an externally applied current may lower the body weight "set point." If so this might mean that galvanic stimulation of points behind the external ear may result in weight loss in obese humans.

This shows promise, but any future study will need to take the nausea which may result from vestibular signal excess or imbalance into account.

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ABSTRACT

Modulation of Body Mass Composition using Vestibular Nerve Stimulation.

Paul D. McGeoch, Jason McKeown, Vilayanur S. Ramachandran

doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1101/087692

Abstract

There is increasing evidence of a set-point for body weight in the brain, that is regulated by the hypothalamus. This system modifies feeding behavior and metabolic rate, to keep body fat within predetermined parameters. It is also known that animals subjected to chronic centrifugation show a reduction in body fat. Experiments with mutant mice found that this loss of fat appears to be mediated by a vestibulo-hypothalamic pathway. Vestibular nerve stimulation (VeNS), also known as galvanic vestibular stimulation, involves non-invasively stimulating the vestibular system by applying a small electrical current between two electrodes placed over the mastoid processes. We suggest that any means of repeatedly stimulating the otolith organs in humans would cause a reduction in total body fat, and that VeNS would be a useful technique to use in this regard. Below we provide pilot data to support this idea.

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