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Sci Rep. 2016 Oct 12;6:35135. doi: 10.1038/srep35135.

Vagus Nerve Stimulation Alters Phase Synchrony of the Anterior Cingulate Cortex and Facilitates Decision Making in Rats.

Cao B1,2, Wang J1,2, Shahed M1,2, Jelfs B2,3, Chan RH2,3, Li Y1,2,4,5.

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Department of Biomedical Sciences, City University of Hong Kong, Tat Chee Avenue, Kowloon, Hong Kong.
Centre for Biosystems, Neuroscience, and Nanotechnology, City University of Hong Kong, Kowloon, Hong Kong.
Department of Electronic Engineering, City University of Hong Kong, Kowloon, Hong Kong.
Shenzhen Key Lab of Neuropsychiatric Modulation, CAS Center for Excellence in Brain Science, Shenzhen Institutes of Advanced Technology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shenzhen 518055, Hong Kong.
School of Veterinary Medicine, City University of Hong Kong, Kowloon, Hong Kong.


Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) can enhance memory and cognitive functions in both rats and humans. Studies have shown that VNS influenced decision-making in epileptic patients. However, the sites of action involved in the cognitive-enhancement are poorly understood. By employing a conscious rat model equipped with vagus nerve cuff electrode, we assess the role of chronic VNS on decision-making in rat gambling task (RGT). Simultaneous multichannel-recordings offer an ideal setup to test the hypothesis that VNS may induce alterations of in both spike-field-coherence and synchronization of theta oscillations across brain areas in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and basolateral amygdala (BLA). Daily VNS, administered immediately following training sessions of RGT, caused an increase in 'good decision-maker' rats. Neural spikes in the ACC became synchronized with the ongoing theta oscillations of local field potential (LFP) in BLA following VNS. Moreover, cross-correlation analysis revealed synchronization between the ACC and BLA. Our results provide specific evidence that VNS facilitates decision-making and unveils several important roles for VNS in regulating LFP and spike phases, as well as enhancing spike-phase coherence between key brain areas involved in cognitive performance. These data may serve to provide fundamental notions regarding neurophysiological biomarkers for therapeutic VNS in cognitive impairment.

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