Restoration of somatosensory function: VNS with tactile rehabilitation.

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Restoration of somatosensory function by pairing vagus nerve stimulation with tactile rehabilitation.

Ann Neurol. 2019 Dec 25;:

Authors: Darrow MJ, Mian TM, Torres M, Haider Z, Danaphongse T, Rennaker RL, Kilgard MP, Hays SA

Abstract
OBJECTIVE: Sensory dysfunction is a common consequence of many forms of neurological injury, including stroke and nerve damage. Rehabilitative paradigms that incorporate sensory retraining can provide modest benefits, but the majority of patients are left with lasting sensory loss. We have developed a novel strategy that uses closed-loop vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) paired with tactile rehabilitation to enhance synaptic plasticity and facilitate recovery of sensory function.
METHODS: A clinical case report provides initial evidence that a similar implementation of closed-loop VNS paired with a tactile rehabilitation regimen could improve recovery of somatosensory function. Here, we sought to build on this promising initial clinical data and rigorously evaluate the ability of VNS paired with tactile rehabilitation to improve recovery in an animal model of chronic sensory loss. The study design, including planned sample size, assessments, and statistical comparisons, was preregistered prior to beginning data collection (https://osf.io/xsnj5/).
RESULTS: VNS paired with tactile rehabilitation resulted in a significant and nearly complete recovery of mechanosensory withdrawal thresholds. Equivalent tactile rehabilitation without VNS failed to improve sensory function. This VNS-dependent restoration of sensory thresholds was maintained for several months after the cessation of stimulation, illustrating long-term benefits. Moreover, VNS paired with tactile rehabilitation resulted in significant generalized improvements in other measures of sensorimotor forepaw function.
INTERPRETATION: Given the safety and tolerability of VNS therapy, these findings suggest that incorporating VNS paired with sensory retraining into rehabilitative regimens may represent a fundamentally new method to increase recovery of sensory function after neurological injury This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

PMID: 31875975 [PubMed – as supplied by publisher]

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