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Premed student Jeremy Klope tests a rat on the balance beam
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Premed student Jeremy Klope tests a rat on the balance beam.

June 2, 2010
Premed student Jeremy Klope tests a rat on the balance beam. Head-injured rats that get vagus nerve stimulation during recovery regain their surefootedness more quickly than rats that don't. [See Related Image.]

More about this Image Robert Jensen and Douglas Smith, behavioral neuroscientists and psychology professors from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, are conducting research into the functions of the vagus nerve. Research conducted by Smith and Jensen, along with their students, has shown that electrical stimulation of the vagus nerve can improve people's memory and learning. They've also shown that such stimulation can help lab rats recover much more quickly from brain injury, and they hope eventually, humans as well.

The National Science Foundation awarded a three-year grant in the summer of 2001 to Jensen and Smith to continue their work on the effects on the brain when the vagus nerve is stimulated.