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Neurobiol Dis. 2013 Dec;60:80-8. doi: 10.1016/j.nbd.2013.08.002. Epub 2013 Aug 15.

Vagus nerve stimulation during rehabilitative training improves forelimb strength following ischemic stroke.

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The University of Texas at Dallas, School of Behavioral Brain Sciences, 800 West Campbell Road, GR41, Richardson, TX 75080-3021, USA. Electronic address:


Upper limb impairment is a common debilitating consequence of ischemic stroke. Physical rehabilitation after stroke enhances neuroplasticity and improves limb function, but does not typically restore normal movement. We have recently developed a novel method that uses vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) paired with forelimb movements to drive specific, long-lasting map plasticity in rat primary motor cortex. Here we report that VNS paired with rehabilitative training can enhance recovery of forelimb force generation following infarction of primary motor cortex in rats. Quantitative measures of forelimb function returned to pre-lesion levels when VNS was delivered during rehab training. Intensive rehab training without VNS failed to restore function back to pre-lesion levels. Animals that received VNS during rehab improved twice as much as rats that received the same rehabilitation without VNS. VNS delivered during physical rehabilitation represents a novel method that may provide long-lasting benefits towards stroke recovery.


Ischemia; Motor cortex; Neurorehabilitation; Plasticity; Stroke; Vagus nerve stimulation

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