The vagus nerve is the primary nerve of the parasympathetic nervous system, responsible for rest and digest, and for regulating the heartbeat and breath. When the vagus is functionally compromised by trauma, we are more likely to live in states of fight/flight or collapse. This can lead to persistent anxiety, difficulty in relationships, sleep and gut disorders, auditory hypersensitivity and more. Low vagal tone results in poor heart rate variability (HRV), known in medicine to be a reliable predictor of disease states.
When the vagus nerve is stimulated, the body is better able to resume homeostasis and symptoms naturally resolve themselves. Higher vagal tone results in higher heart rate variability and better health overall. Surgical vagal stimulators have been developed with amazing results, but it’s not necessary to undergo a surgical procedure: we have access to the vagus directly through the auditory system.
In an SSP session, the recipient wears headphones and listens to music that has been specially modified to act as a neural exercise. It gives a “workout” to the muscles of the middle ear, which are part of the same neural pathway as the vagus nerve. How do we know this? Through research, but also intuitively: think about the difference in effect between a mother’s lullaby versus a person shouting. One has an inherent calming effect, the other is likely to drive sympathetic activation (fight or flight). SSP is music modified to create an effect on the nervous system similar to that of a mother’s lullaby, yet amplified to strengthen the signal.