Effects of transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation
Stimulation of the vagus nerve, which connects to the heart, lungs and gut, leads to improvements in body, sleep and mood, BBC reports.
A small study of the University of Leeds team said the procedure could make a big difference to people's lives.
Stimulating the vagus nerve
The vagus nerve transmits information from the brain to organs around the body, such as the heart and lungs. It is called the "wandering nerve", because it's long and well-connected.
It is also fundamental to the body's autonomic nervous system.
This system, which has branches known as sympathetic and parasympathetic, controls many of the body's functions, such as breathing, digestion, heart rate and blood pressure.
The researchers gave 29 healthy volunteers aged 55 and over transcutaneous vagal nerve stimulation for 15 minutes a day for two weeks.
The therapy led to an increase in parasympathetic activity and a decrease in sympathetic activity, helping to rebalance the body's nervous system.
It's important how we age
As we get older, the balance of the body's nervous system goes awry.
The sympathetic branch, which helps the body prepare for high intensity "fight or flight" activity, begins to dominate. And the parasympathetic branch, which is important for "rest and digest" activity, becomes less active.
The plan is now to see if the therapy could benefit particular disorders, such as heart failure, depression and irritable bowel syndrome, commented to BBC Study author Dr Beatrice Bretherton, from the school of biomedical sciences at Leeds.