Cortical Responses to Vagus Nerve Stimulation Are Modulated by Brain State in Nonhuman Primates.

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Cerebral cortex (New York, N.Y. : 1991)


washington; everett; prmc


Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) has been tested as therapy for several brain disorders and as a means to modulate cortical excitability and brain plasticity. Cortical effects of VNS, manifesting as vagal-evoked potentials (VEPs), are thought to arise from activation of ascending cholinergic and noradrenergic systems. However, it is unknown whether those effects are modulated by brain state at the time of stimulation. In 2 freely behaving macaque monkeys, we delivered short trains of 5 pulses to the left cervical vagus nerve at different frequencies (5-300 Hz) while recording local field potentials (LFPs) from sites in contralateral prefrontal, sensorimotor and parietal cortical areas. Brain states were inferred from spectral components of LFPs and the presence of overt movement: active awake, resting awake, REM sleep and NREM sleep. VNS elicited VEPs in all sampled cortical areas. VEPs comprised early (<70 >ms), intermediate (70-250 ms) and late (>250 ms) components. The magnitude of the intermediate and late components was largest during NREM sleep and smallest during wakefulness, whereas that of the early component was not modulated by brain state. VEPs during NREM were larger for stimuli delivered at the depolarized phase of ongoing delta oscillations. Higher pulsing frequencies generated larger VEPs. These short VNS trains did not affect brain state transitions during wakefulness or sleep. Our findings suggest that ongoing brain state modulates the evoked effects of VNS on cortical activity. This has implications for the role of ongoing cortical activity and brain state in shaping cortical responses to peripheral stimuli, for the modulation of vagal interoceptive signaling by cortical activity, and for the dose calibration of VNS therapies.

Clinical Institute

Neurosciences (Brain & Spine)