Enhancement of thalamic information transmission by VNS

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Rapid and transient enhancement of thalamic information transmission induced by vagus nerve stimulation.

J Neural Eng. 2020 Jan 14;:

Authors: Rodenkirch C, Wang Q

OBJECTIVE: Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) has been FDA-approved as a long-term, therapeutic treatment for multiple disorders, including pharmacoresistant epilepsy and depression. Here we elucidate the short-term effects of VNS on sensory processing.
APPROACH: We employed an information theoretic approach to examine the effects of VNS on thalamocortical transmission of sensory-related information along the somatosensory pathway.
MAIN RESULTS: We found that VNS enhanced the selectivity of the response of thalamic neurons to specific kinetic features in the stimuli, resulting in a significant increase in the efficiency and rate of stimulus-related information conveyed by thalamic spikes. VNS-induced improvements in thalamic sensory processing coincided with a decrease in thalamic burst firing. Importantly, we found VNS-induced enhancement of sensory processing had a rapid onset and offset, completely disappearing one minute after cessation of VNS. The timescales of these effects indicate against an underlying mechanism involving long-term neuroplasticity. We found several patterns of VNS (tonic, standard duty-cycle, and fast duty-cycle) all induced similar improvements in sensory processing. Under closer inspection we noticed that due to the fast timescale of VNS effects on sensory processing, standard duty-cycle VNS induced a fluctuating sensory processing state which may be sub-optimal for perceptual behavior. Fast duty-cycle VNS and continuous, tonic VNS induced quantitatively similar improvements in thalamic information transmission as standard duty-cycle VNS without inducing a fluctuating thalamic state. Further, we found the strength of VNS-induced improvements in sensory processing increased monotonically with amplitude and frequency of VNS.
SIGNIFICANCE: These results demonstrate, for the first time, the feasibility of utilizing specific patterns of VNS to rapidly improve sensory processing and confirm fast duty-cycle and tonic patterns as optimal for this purpose, while showing standard duty-cycle VNS causes non-optimal fluctuations in thalamic state.

PMID: 31935689 [PubMed – as supplied by publisher]

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