A new crop of medical devices are trying to hack the vagus nerve to treat disease

The vagus nerve, also known as the “wandering nerve,” winds a path all around your torso, intersecting with everything from the heart to the lungs to the digestive tract. That makes it a natural target for a wide range of therapeutic interventions: In the late ’90s, the Food and Drug Administration cleared the first surgically implantable devices to stimulate the vagus nerve, and today they’re used to treat medication-resistant cases of depression and epilepsy.

After weaving its way through your body, the vagus nerve ultimately ends up in your cranium, passing up through your neck and branching off to whisper past the outer edge of your ear. Which is where some companies are hoping they can make an impact without implants.

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