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Institute of Acupuncture and Moxibustion, China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences, 16 Nanxiaojie, Dongzhimennei, Beijing 100700, China.
The afferent projections from the auricular branch of the vagus nerve (ABVN) to the nucleus tractus solitaries (NTS) have been proposed as the anatomical basis for the increased parasympathetic tone seen in auriculo-vagal reflexes. As the afferent center of the vagus nerve, the NTS has been considered to play roles in the anticonvulsant effect of cervical vagus nerve stimulation (VNS). Here we proposed an “auriculo-vagal afferent pathway” (AVAP), by which transcutaneous auricular vagus nerve stimulation (ta-VNS) suppresses pentylenetetrazol (PTZ)-induced epileptic seizures by activating the NTS neurons in rats.
The afferent projections from the ABVN to the NTS were firstly observed in rats. ta-VNS increased the first grand mal latency of the epileptic seizure and decreased the seizure scores in awake rats. Furthermore, when the firing rates of the NTS neurons decreased, epileptiform activity manifested as electroencephalogram (EEG) synchronization increased with 0.37±0.12 s delay in anaesthetized rats. The change of instantaneous frequency, mean frequency of the NTS neurons was negative correlated with the amplitude of the epileptic activity in EEG traces. ta-VNS significantly suppressed epileptiform activity in EEG traces via increasing the firing rates of the neurons of the NTS. In comparison with tan-VNS, the anticonvulsant durations of VNS and ta-VNS were significantly longer (P<0.01). There was no significant difference between the anticonvulsant durations of VNS and ta-VNS (P>0.05). The anticonvulsant effect of ta-VNS was weakened by reversible cold block of the NTS.
There existed an anatomical relationship between the ABVN and the NTS, which strongly supports the concept that ta-VNS has the potential for suppressing epileptiform activity via the AVAP in rats. ta-VNS will provide alternative treatments for neurological disorders, which can avoid the disadvantage of VNS.