An Online Wellness Magazine produced by The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth)

Taming the Tempest in the Brain

Several therapies tackle epilepsy, but neurological ‘pacemaker’ helps woman reclaim life stolen by disorder

This is the second of a two-part story on Epilepsy. 

In late 2003, while searching for support for her adult daughter’s treatment, Kathi Penn came across the national nonprofit Epilepsy Foundation, which brought Tiffany Penn under its care. When a series of medications failed to control her life-long seizure disorder, a new therapy dubbed vagus nerve stimulation, or VNS, was recommended for her.

Vagus nerves are a pair of lengthy and meandering nerves — one on each side of the body — that runs from the brainstem through the neck and chest to the abdomen. It branches off to parts of the body, including the ears, voice box, lungs, heart, esophagus and stomach, and conducts motor impulses from the brain to these body structures to govern their reflex responses while supplying sensation to them.


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