Could £ 20 brain zappers lower your blood pressure? A gadget that clips on the ears and can be worn while watching television can improve the condition, study shows
- Leading neuroscientist and developer said it changes brain control of the CV system
- About a quarter of adults in England are thought to have high blood pressure
- There are no published results yet that show how well the brain zapper works
- However, early results suggest that the device may reduce blood pressure significantly
Stimulating the brain with a simple device for 20 pounds for 30 minutes each day can help reduce high blood pressure.
It has been argued that the gadget, which is clipped on the ears and can be worn while watching television, can lead to greater improvements in blood pressure than taking tablets.
Anyone who wears it will feel a ‘gentle tingle’ when a weak electric current is sent into the brain through the ears.
The lead neuroscientist who developed the device, Professor Alexander Gourine of University College London, described early results from a preliminary trial of 30 people using the brain-zapper.
He told the Cheltenham Science Festival: ‘In our proof-of-concept study, it looks like we can control your blood pressure by applying this stimulation for half an hour a day for a few weeks. It changes the brain’s control over your cardiovascular system. ‘
About a quarter of adults in the UK are thought to have high blood pressure, meaning the condition affects around 12 million people.
Sophie Llewellyn, Research Assistant at UCL Center for Advanced Biomedical Imaging, models the ‘brain zapper’ device
Professor Gourine said the battery-powered device, which is the size of a mobile phone and can be tucked in a pocket or clipped to a belt, could be widely available within four years on the NHS, but currently costs around £ 20.
There are no published results yet that show how well it works, but initial results suggest that the device may reduce blood pressure significantly. The gadget, called AffeX, stimulates the vagus nerve, which runs from the brain down along the stomach.
Professor Gourine said it could reduce systolic blood pressure – the force with which the heart pumps blood around the body – by about ten to 15 units. It can be compared to a reduction in blood pressure of eight to ten units for conventionally used drugs such as ACE inhibitors.
Professor Gourine said two weeks of using the device could improve blood pressure for weeks or even months.
In the UK, almost 60 per cent of people with high blood pressure are treated with medication, but more than 40 per cent do not take the tablets as directed.
A simple device for £ 20, which is clipped to the ears and can be worn while watching television, is claimed to achieve a higher blood pressure reduction than taking tablets
This is often the case due to side effects, which means that new methods of controlling blood pressure are needed.
The researchers are now conducting a large-scale trial of the device, funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research, in about 100 people with high blood pressure.
Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation, said: ‘This approach … remains an experimental treatment and there is not yet enough evidence to recommend it as part of routine clinical practice.
‘If you have been prescribed blood pressure lowering medication … you should continue to take it as usual.’
Naveed Sattar, a professor at the University of Glasgow, said the device was ‘interesting’.