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Hippocampus. 2014 May;24(5):541-52. doi: 10.1002/hipo.22247. Epub 2014 Jan 30.

Galvanic vestibular stimulation impairs cell proliferation and neurogenesis in the rat hippocampus but not spatial memory.

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  • 1Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, School of Medical Sciences, and the Brain Health Research Centre, University of Otago, New Zealand.


Galvanic vestibular stimulation (GVS) is a method of activating the peripheral vestibular system using direct current that is widely employed in clinical neurological testing. Since movement is recognized to stimulate hippocampal neurogenesis and movement is impossible without activation of the vestibular system, we speculated that activating the vestibular system in rats while minimizing movement, by delivering GVS under anesthesia, would affect hippocampal cell proliferation and neurogenesis, and spatial memory. Compared with the sham control group, the number of cells incorporating the DNA replication marker, bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU), was significantly reduced in the bilateral hippocampi in both the cathode left-anode right and cathode right-anode left stimulation groups (P ≤ 0.0001). The majority of the BrdU(+ve) cells co-expressed Ki-67, a marker for the S phase of the cell cycle, suggesting that these BrdU(+ve) cells were still in the cell cycle; however, there was no significant difference in the degree of co-labeling between the two stimulation groups. Single labeling for doublecortin (DCX), a marker of immature neurons, showed that while there was no significant difference between the different groups in the number of DCX(+ve) cells in the right dentate gryus, in the left dentate gyrus there was a significant decrease in the cathode left-anode right group compared with the sham controls (P ≤ 0.03). Nonetheless, when animals were tested in place recognition, object exploration and Morris water maze tasks, there were no significant differences between the GVS groups and the sham controls. These results suggest that GVS can have striking effects on cell proliferation and possibly neurogenesis in the hippocampus, without affecting spatial memory.

Copyright © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.


galvanic vestibular stimulation; hippocampus; neurogenesis; rat

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