According to a team of researchers at the University of Leeds, tickling your ear could help improve the health of your heart. The team applied electrodes to the ears of 34 healthy people and switched on the standard TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) machines for 15-minute sessions. The technique works by stimulating a major nerve called the 'vagus' that plays an important role in regulating vital organs such as the heart. What they found was nothing short of remarkable. The stimulation changed the influence of the nervous system on the heart by reducing the nervous signals that can drive a failing heart. They monitored the variability of subjects' heartbeats and the activity of the part of the nervous system that drives the heart.Jennifer Clancy, lead researcher at the University of Leeds' school of biomedical sciences said, "The first positive effect we observed was increased variability in subjects' heartbeats. We found that when you stimulate this nerve, you get about a 20 percent increase in heart rate variability." According to Jim Deuchars, a professor of systems neuroscience at University of Leeds, "this technique has the potential to become part of the treatment for heart failiure." He added, "You feel a tickling sensation in your ear when the TENS machine is on but it is painless and has complete potential to improve the health of the heart."The second positive effect was in suppressing the sympathetic nervous system, which drives heart activity using adrenaline. Clancy explained, "We measured the nerve activity directly and found that it reduced by about 50 percent when we stimulated the ear. This is important because if you have heart disease or heart failure, you tend to have increased sympathetic activity. And a lot of treatments for heart failure try to stop that sympathetic activity - beta-blockers, for instance, block the action of the hormones that implement these signals."Researchers noted that "Using TENS, we saw a reduction of the nervous activity itself." With inputs from IANS
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