Effects of Vagus Nerve Stimulation on Caloric Intake, Dopamine Signaling, and Self-administration




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Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) offers an effective, minimally evasive means for eliciting changes within the central nervous system. Preclinically, VNS has been utilized for its ability to drive plasticity within the motor and auditory cortices which have further been developed as therapeutic approaches to improve recovery after neural injury. However, precise mechanisms and off target effects of VNS are not fully characterized. Here, we try to develop the understanding of VNS in three different, but linked, experiments. In the first, we sought to measure the effects of VNS on caloric intake. The vagus nerve is a key mediator of gut-brain signaling, and we found that VNS would indeed decrease caloric intake. Next, we examined the necessity of dopamine, a key neuromodulator in motor skill learning, in VNS driven motor cortical reorganization. Here, VNS is either not reliant on, or is able to overcome the absence of dopamine. Last, we examined lateralization of the vagus nerve and found that the right cervical branch, but not the left, is capable of activating mesolimbic dopaminergic nuclei and promoting self-stimulation like behaviors. Together these findings both help to inform future VNS-related studies and opens new avenues of research into the mechanisms and applications of VNS.



Biology, Neuroscience