Neuromodulation of disease

The role of the vagus nerve in cancer

PI: Yori Gidron
PhD student: Marijke De Couck
Collaborators: Jacques De Greve and Denis Schallier (VUB, Belgium), Raphael Marechal and Jean-Luc Van Laethem (ULB, Belgium), Paul Boon (UZ Gent, Belgium), Samuel Ariad (Ben-Gurion Univ., Israel), Luca Vannucci (Prague, Czech Republic), Boris Mravec (Bratislava, Slovac Republic).

Recent studies show that the autonomic nervous system modulates tumor progression. Our work focuses on the effects and mechanisms of vagal nerve modulation of tumors. This happens due to vagal modulation of multiple key processes etiological to carcinogenesis including inflammation, oxidative stress and sympathetic hyperactivity. We are testing this topic in 3 levels: 1. The relationship between vagal nerve activity (indexed by heart-rate variability) and cancer prognosis; 2. Can activating the vagus nerve affect tumors in rats and the underlying mechanisms; 3. Can activating the vagus nerve improve prognosis in patients with advanced cancer, and the underlying mechanisms. This work has scientific implications for neuroimmunomodualtion of diseases and could have clinical implications for introducing new ways for possibly treating cancer.


The role of the vagus nerve in obesity

PIs: Yori Gidron & Olivier Luminet (UCL, Belgium)
Post-Doc: Renata Cserjesi
Collaborators: Brigitte Velkeniers, Nancy van Wilders, Marijke De Couck (UZ Brussles, VUB, Belgium), Philip De Timary & Jean-Paul Thiessen (UCL, Belgium).

Overweight and obesity is a global epidemic of severe health consequences for diabetes, cardiac diseases and several cancers. A main challenge is to target multiple risk factors of obesity. However, often, health providers target only one obesity cause or use multiple ways to target several risk factors. The vagus nerve modulates or is related to multiple obesity risk factors (e.g., inflammation, food-preference, sympathetic activity, brain functions and mood modulation). Thus, it may be more efficient to increase vagal nerve activity to reduce weight via modulating multiple risk factors of obesity. This two-center RCT will examine the effects of various modes of vagal nerve activity and the mechanisms, on weight in obese people.


Effects of hemispheric lateralization (HL) on infectious diseases

PI: Yori Gidron
PhD students: Tereza Killianova (VUB), Sebastien van Eycken (VUB), Olga Ferreira (Portugal)
Collaborators: Chris Baeken (UZ Gent, Belgium), Patrick Lacor and Rembert Mertens (UZ Brussel, VUB, Belgium), Gabriella Berg (Univ of Buenos Aires, Argentina).

During the past two decades, research has shown that the left hemisphere activates immunity while the right hemisphere inhibits it. The mechanisms of such effects are still under investigation. In these studies, we first try to understand the basic properties of hemispheric lateralization (HL). Second, we examine whether HL predicts infectious disease onset and prognosis. Finally, we plan to also examine whether activating the left hemisphere increases immunity and reduces the risk of such infectious diseases or improves their prognosis. Our research will investigate whether activity or functional measures of HL are related to infectious diseases. This research has scientific implications for neuroimmunomodulation and clinical implications for preventing such common public health outcomes as the common cold.


The role of the left hemisphere in daily mood

PI: Yori Gidron
PhD student: Dana Herzog (VUB, from Israel)
Collaborators: Filip Germeys (HUB, Belgium)

During the past decades, studies have shown a complex modulation of mood by the two hemispheres, with the left side involved in “approach” emotional states (positive mood, anger) and the right side in “inhibitory” emotional states (anxiety, depression). This line of research first examined the role of the left hemisphere in moderating the effects of adverse stressful events on distress. Second, we will examine whether performing cognitive exercises that activate left prefrontal regions increase daily positive affect. This work has scientific implications for understanding neuromodulation of daily mood and clinical implications for people’s self-regulation of their distress.

 

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