Over a year ago, I read this article on electrical stimulation of the vagus nerve for relief in chronic pain sufferers: https://blog.bulletproof.com/tone-vagus-nerve-hack-nervous-system/ In the study, patients were fitted with surgical implants in the shoulder/neck junction area that gave a direct electrical stimulus to the nerve for controlled periods of time, daily. The article has the details, and it's worth a read.
Sometime in the early months of this year, a friend of mine with anxiety issues found an Indigogo campaign for a new device that would deliver a similar electrical stimulus to the vagus nerve from a point inside the left ear canal via electrical current carried by one channel of a pair of stereo earbuds. Knowing as many of us here do that improving vagus nerve tone can have all kinds of benefits, and having read the article on chronic pain relief (my wife has moderate to severe pain issues due to back problems), I became an early backer of the device in March, and yesterday, my Nervana unit finally arrived.
I wasn't able to try it out immediately, but I did manage to use it for several sessions today. It's all quite new to me, but I wanted to start a thread on it to update occasionally as I and my wife find (or don't find) results over time.
The basic company website can be found here: http://experiencenervana.com/, including links to information and purchasing options, if you're interested.
A few points of order: Nervana does not make any medical or therapeutic claims, such as benefits seen with other devices or studies (such as the ones I mentioned above). Rather, they bill themselves as a way to enhance music listening enjoyment--which is pretty ironic, considering that other than the electrical stim itself, one of the more immediately noticeable points of the Nervana unit is the absolutely crappy sound quality the headphones produce. Let's put it this way: if you're digging the music, it's because you've got a happy nerve. Your ears would otherwise be weeping.
Any old how. This won't be an extended review. You can go to YouTube and watch unboxing vids and that kind of thing for a more multimedia understanding of the full consumer experience. I just wanted to jot down some initial observations and see if maybe anyone else out there was already taking this ride.
To be honest, I'm a bit taken aback that Ye Olde Bulletproof Asprey isn't on this by now. Or I searched the blog, forums, and podcast posts for "Nervana" and came up empty, anyway.
So, the basics: With your set, you get the Nervana amp, a set of headphones (which are proprietary in that one channel has to carry an extra electrical current to the ear), special conductive ear buds for a custom fit, a saline spray pump, various documentation including a succinct quick-start guide, and even a 9-volt battery (which is a pretty good trick considering battery shipment overseas is generally taboo). They ship worldwide at a reasonable rate for those outside the US (iirc it was around $25, think it was a flat int'l rate). The packaging is sharp, and the build quality of all components seems quite solid and well crafted.
Setup isn't terribly tricky, and if you have trouble there are a number of videos on the Nervana YouTube channel for guidance. The battery compartment is pretty cramped, and somewhat to my chagrin I did eventually have to go watch the video on battery installation just to see how they got everything to fit under the hatch without damaging the wires.
The unit runs in various modes: Audio mode--for music from an external media device via a headphone patch cord (supplied), or Ambient mode--I gather this augments ambient sound such as at a concert with the nerve stim signal; and there's Program mode, which just delivers the signal without any audio input at all. I don't know that any of it's important. Like I said, the phones sound about as bad as you can get without actual distortion (absolutely zero bass), and if the stim signal varies at all according to sound input, I wasn't able to tell. It reminds me a lot, actually, of using CES devices like Alpha Stim or Oasis.
At the start of every session, you need to select what mode you're using, and you use a dial on the front panel to calibrate the stim with the sound input (I had trouble understanding this part, because a major drawback while you're doing this setup is that you're not getting the actual stim, so you have no way of knowing how your adjustments affect the output). You set the intensity (from 1-25), and then you choose the session length, which is variable in 5-minute increments from 15 to 45 minutes. Nervana recommends first-time users to start with 30 minutes.
Fortunately, you can adjust the stim intensity during the session. I couldn't stop fiddling with mine during the sessions, at first for comfort reasons, and then later just out of sheer curiosity. So far, the max intensity I've gone is about 13, and the signal at that level seemed pretty powerful to me. I think this is a lot like CES in that very quickly you can expect to drain your battery, so rechargeable 9v is probably a good way to go, otherwise you're likely to see intensity being highly variable depending on battery strength. Thankfully I already have a set that I bought for use with my Oasis, so I'll be using those moving forward.
My first session produced most notably a great amount of itching in my ear canal, so much that I could hardly pay any attention to any peripheral effects. In fact, it was only near the end when I started ramping up the intensity that I felt real evidence that something was going on below skin surface. For those of you who've played with CES before, particularly at low freqs, you may have noticed how you can get light-headed when you crank up the intensity. I had a couple of moments like that with Nervana today. My friend, who got his unit maybe 3 weeks ago now, uses his at full strength all the time and says he's acclimated to it without any discomforts, and often runs dual 45-minute sessions back-to-back. Right now, on this first day, it still packs a wallop for me, but by the last session I had a lot less trouble with the itching. In total I did 4 sessions: 30 minutes, 20 minutes, 20 minutes, and another 30. there was no particular order to that, I was just trying various ear bud sizes to make sure I got the best fit.
I don't have any results to report yet in terms of benefit or good feelings or whatever, but it's only been a day. This won't be a massive daily journal or anything like that (I don't have time for it anyway), but hopefully some others out there have their own experiences to share.