It’s a great time to be a gadget fan. The emergence of crowd funding has allowed crazy inventors to access money that previously they would have had to sell their soul to an investor for.
One such gadget is Neuvana’s Xen Vagus Nerve Stimulator (or VNS for short). Originally crowd funded in 2015, the device has had a major facelift and is finally available to the public, and I’m delighted to be one of the first people to test out the latest iteration.
What happens in Vagus stays in Vagus
Some of these functions include heart rate, blood pressure, sweating, digestion and speaking. The vagus is the information highway from the brain to the heart, airways, lungs, aesophagus, stomach, pancreas and small intestines.
In addition, the management and processing of emotions happens via the vagus nerve between the heart, gut and brain which is why we have a strong gut reaction to intense mental and emotional states.
Because it balances the nervous system by promoting a relaxation response, the vagus nerve helps with, among other things, mood, calmness, digestion, and sexual arousal.
When your ever-vigilant sympathetic nervous system revs up the fight or flight responses—releasing adrenaline and the stress hormone cortisol into your body—the vagus nerve tells your body to relax by releasing acetylcholine to balance things out.
The vagus nerve acts like a fibre-optic cable that sends back instructions to release enzymes and proteins which calm you down.
Stimulating your vagus is critical for wellbeing
But the artificial stimulation of the vagus nerve, or VNS for short, was originally developed in the west to help people with severe epilepsy. The first experiments date back to the 1930s, but it wasn’t until 1997 that technology was approved for clinical use, and that consisted of implants that directly connected to the vagus nerve to help the person’s nervous system stay calm so that the chance of having a fit was reduced.
It has since been used to help other conditions, such as chronic anxiety, bipolar disorder, alzheimers and even obesity. And until recently all of these treatments still required an implant.
Enter the Neuvana Xen
It’s a nice looking and simple device, much different from the prototype that I played with in 2015 that looked more like a military radio. The device itself pops in your pocket and you put in the earbuds and connect it to your phone via Bluetooth. And the great thing about it is that you can listen to music whilst you are using it, which makes it entirely practical for using on the train, or in the office. It’s definitely not for using whilst driving or operating heavy machinery though, and I’ll explain why later.
So let’s get on what it’s like. Using the unit is a somewhat strange experience. You pop the headphones, select a programme in the app, and hit start. You can have it either run a standard routine, or to respond to your music and work to the beat of what you’re listening to.
Whilst I initially thought the music option was cool, after a few sessions I switched to the standard routines because I found it distracting.
The sound quality of the earbuds is fine. It’s not great but it’s ok. Lacks some bass so I wouldn’t use these as my normal listening method, but it’s not bad, reasonable sound range and sound isolation for earbuds.
But when you start up the programme you won’t really notice the sound quality because you get a tingling sensation in your left ear. The earbuds are after all using an electric charge and the vagus nerve runs down the left side of your neck, and when I’m using it I can actually feel tingling from my ear and down in to my neck. You can adjust the intensity so that it’s not uncomfortable but as I’m a raging Type A I tend to set the setting to maximum and just grin and bear the first few minutes until I get used to it, and then relax and listen to some music.
When you have it on music mode, it synchronises the tingling with the drum beat in the music. I tried it with some beatless ambient and I didn’t really notice the tingling. The sessions can be set anywhere from a few minutes up to 25 minutes maximum, the app tells you when the session has finished and of course you can carry on listening to music or take the headphones out.
Does the Neuvana Xen work?
Another effect that I’ve noticed is how it calms my breathing. I’m asthmatic and whilst it doesn’t cause me a big problem because I manage my asthma using buteyko and Heartmath, I have noticed that my breathing is noticeably calmer afterwards, actually on par with a full buteyko session or 15 minutes of Heartmath, all whilst I listen to music or watch some Netflix, and this makes it very interesting.
Stay tuned for a full review
To this end I am going to use the device twice a day for 30 days before making my full conclusions. The initial reaction is extremely positive, so please come back at the end of January to see what I really think of the device.