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Objective.Electrical vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) has the potential to treat a wide variety of diseases by modulating afferent and efferent communication to the heart, lungs, esophagus, stomach, and intestines. Although distal vagal nerve branches, close to end organs, could provide a selective therapeutic approach, these locations are often surgically inaccessible. In contrast, the cervical vagus nerve has been targeted for decades using surgically implantable helix electrodes to treat epileptic seizures and depression; however, to date, clinical implementation of VNS has relied on an electrode with contacts that fully wrap around the nerve, producing non-selective activation of the entire nerve. Here we demonstrate selective cervical VNS using cuff electrodes with multiple contacts around the nerve circumference to target different functional pathways.Approach.These flexible probes were adjusted to the diameter of the nerve using an adhesive hydrogel wrap to create a robust electrode interface. Our approach was verified in a rat model by demonstrating that cervical VNS produces neural activity in the abdominal vagus nerve while limiting effects on the cardiovascular system (i.e. changes in heart rate or blood pressure).Main results.This study demonstrates the potential for selective cervical VNS as a therapeutic approach for modulating distal nerve branches while reducing off target effects.Significance.This methodology could potentially be refined to treat gastrointestinal, metabolic, inflammatory, cardiovascular, and respiratory diseases amenable to vagal neuromodulatory control. © 2021 IOP Publishing Ltd.


Horn Charles C, Mats Forssell, Michael Sciullo, Jonathan E Harms, Stephanie Fulton, Chenchen Mou, Fan Sun, Tyler W Simpson, Gutian Xiao, Lee E Fisher, Christopher Bettinger, Gary K Fedder. Hydrogel-based electrodes for selective cervical vagus nerve stimulation. Journal of neural engineering. 2021 Apr 20;18(5)

PMID: 33784636

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