Use of a physiological reflex to standardize vagal nerve stimulation intensity improves data reproducibility in a memory extinction assay
AuthorButler, AG; O'Callaghan, EL; Allen, AM; McDougall, SJ
Source TitleBrain Stimulation
PublisherELSEVIER SCIENCE INC
AffiliationFlorey Department of Neuroscience and Mental Health
Anatomy and Neuroscience
Document TypeJournal Article
CitationsButler, A. G., O'Callaghan, E. L., Allen, A. M. & McDougall, S. J. (2021). Use of a physiological reflex to standardize vagal nerve stimulation intensity improves data reproducibility in a memory extinction assay. BRAIN STIMULATION, 14 (2), pp.450-459. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.brs.2021.02.012.
Access StatusOpen Access
BACKGROUND: Modulating brainstem activity, via electrical vagus nerve stimulation (VNS), influences cognitive functions, including memory. However, controlling for changes in stimulus efficacy during chronic studies, and response variability between subjects, is problematic. OBJECTIVE/HYPOTHESIS: We hypothesized that recruitment of an autonomic reflex, the Hering-Breuer reflex, would provide robust confirmation of VNS efficacy. We compared this to measurement of electrode resistance over time. We also examined whether VNS modulates contextual memory extinction. METHODS: Electrodes for VNS and diaphragm electromyography recording were implanted into anesthetized Sprague Dawley rats. When conscious, we measured the electrode resistance as well as the minimum VNS current required to evoke the Hering-Breuer reflex, before, and after, an inhibitory avoidance assay - a two chamber, dark/light model, where the dark compartment was paired with an aversive foot shock. The extinction of this contextual memory was assessed in sham and VNS treated rats, with VNS administered for 30 s at 1.5 times the Hering-Breuer reflex threshold during extinction memory formation. RESULTS: Assessment of VNS-evoked Hering-Breuer reflex successfully identified defective electrodes. VNS accelerated extinction memory and decreased multiple physiological metrics of fear expression. We observed an inverse relationship between memory extinction and respiratory rate during the behavioural assay. Additionally, no current - response relationship between VNS and extinction memory formation was established. CONCLUSION: These data demonstrate that reliable, experimental VNS studies can be produced by verifying reflex initiation as a consequence of stimulation. Further, studies could be standardised by indexing stimulator efficacy to initiation of autonomic reflexes.
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