Augmenting Standard-of-care Treatment of Plaque Psoriasis by Neuromodulation

Study Purpose

The human body responds to inflammation, such as psoriatic skin lesions, by activating the cholinergic anti-inflammatory pathway. In patients with plaque psoriasis, this pathway is not sufficient to clear the skin lesions. Importantly, the vagus nerve, that is part of the anti-inflammatory pathway, also innervates the ear where it can be activated through non-invasive transcutaneous auricular vagus nerve stimulation (taVNS). This raises the research question if taVNS

  • - added to standard of care - improves the symptoms of plaque psoriasis by augmenting the function of the cholinergic anti-inflammatory pathway.
Thus, the aim of this project is to test the hypothesis that daily taVNS applied for 3 months results in anti-inflammatory actions and improvements in the Psoriasis Area and Severity Index (PASI). Potential anti-inflammatory actions of taVNS compared to a sham-taVNS control group will be assessed by plasma cytokine levels, flow cytometry, and cell culture experiments. This project is potentially significant, because it may demonstrate that taVNS lessens the symptoms of plaque psoriasis and, therefore, improves the quality of life of millions of patients.

Recruitment Criteria

Accepts Healthy Volunteers

Healthy volunteers are participants who do not have a disease or condition, or related conditions or symptoms

Study Type

An interventional clinical study is where participants are assigned to receive one or more interventions (or no intervention) so that researchers can evaluate the effects of the interventions on biomedical or health-related outcomes.

An observational clinical study is where participants identified as belonging to study groups are assessed for biomedical or health outcomes.

Searching Both is inclusive of interventional and observational studies.

Eligible Ages 18 Years and Over
Gender All
More Inclusion & Exclusion Criteria

Inclusion Criteria:

  • - 18 years or older.
  • - Plaque psoriasis diagnosed by a dermatologist.

Exclusion Criteria:

  • - pregnancy.
  • - vestibulocochlear neuronitis or nerve damage.
  • - cardiac arrhythmia.
  • - epilepsy.
- anticipated change in medication during the 3-month study period

Trial Details

Trial ID:

This trial id was obtained from, a service of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, providing information on publicly and privately supported clinical studies of human participants with locations in all 50 States and in 196 countries.


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Phase 4: Studies occurring after FDA has approved a drug for marketing, efficacy, or optimal use.

Lead Sponsor

The sponsor is the organization or person who oversees the clinical study and is responsible for analyzing the study data.

Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine
Principal Investigator

The person who is responsible for the scientific and technical direction of the entire clinical study.

Principal Investigator Affiliation N/A
Agency Class

Category of organization(s) involved as sponsor (and collaborator) supporting the trial.

Overall Status Recruiting
Countries United States

The disease, disorder, syndrome, illness, or injury that is being studied.

Psoriasis Vulgaris
Additional Details

An estimated 20% of psoriasis patients experience treatment failure. Afferent vagal nerve fibers that are part of the anti-inflammatory reflex sense inflammation, such as psoriatic skin lesions. The investigators' pilot data show that transcutaneous auricular vagus nerve stimulation (taVNS) activates afferent nerve fibers within the auricular branch of the vagus nerve to trigger anti-inflammatory reflex responses in healthy individuals. However, it is unknown if taVNS improves plaque psoriasis through the anti-inflammatory reflex. The lack of studies on taVNS in plaque psoriasis constitutes a missed opportunity to reduce treatment failures. The long-term goal of this research is to establish a neuromodulatory approach to activate the anti-inflammatory reflex in patients with plaque psoriasis to lessen treatment failures. The objective of this study is to test the hypothesis that taVNS elicits anti-inflammatory reflex responses and reduces the severity of plaque psoriasis. In a single-blinded randomized controlled clinical trial, participants will self-administer taVNS or sham-taVNS (control) daily for a duration of 3 months, while continuing their standard-of-care treatment. At baseline, 7 days, and 1, 2, and 3 months, clinical , autonomic, and inflammatory responses will be assessed. At the conclusion of this study, the investigators expect to demonstrate anti-inflammatory reflex responses to taVNS and reduced severity of plaque psoriasis. These outcomes are expected to have important positive impact, because they are anticipated to reduce treatment failures in patients with plaque psoriasis.

Arms & Interventions


Experimental: Active taVNS

These patients will self-administer transcutaneous auricular vagus nerve stimulation (taVNS).

Sham Comparator: Sham taVNS

These patients will self-administer a sham procedure mimicking the active taVNS procedure.


Device: - Active taVNS

A bipolar clip electrode is placed at the cymba conchae of the ear. Through this bipolar clip electrode, afferent nerve fibers within the auricular branch of the vagus nerve will be stimulated. Subjects self-administer the stimulation on a daily basis for 3 months.

Device: - Sham taVNS

A bipolar clip electrode is placed at the cymba conchae of the ear. However, active stimulation of the afferent nerve fibers within the auricular branch of the vagus nerve will not occur, because the electrode wire is electrically interrupted. Subjects self-administer the sham taVNS on a daily basis for 3 months.

Contact a Trial Team

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Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine, Las Cruces, New Mexico




Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine

Las Cruces, New Mexico, 88001

Site Contact

Harald M Stauss, MD, PhD

[email protected]


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