Selective Neuromodulation of the Vagus Nerve

Author: Adam Fitchett1, Svetlana Mastitskaya1, Kirill Aristovich1
Affiliation: <sup>1</sup> Department of Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering, University College London, London, United Kingdom.
Conference/Journal: Front Neurosci
Date published: 2021 May 24
Other: Volume ID: 15 , Pages: 685872 , Special Notes: doi: 10.3389/fnins.2021.685872. , Word Count: 228

Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) is an effective technique for the treatment of refractory epilepsy and shows potential for the treatment of a range of other serious conditions. However, until now stimulation has generally been supramaximal and non-selective, resulting in a range of side effects. Selective VNS (sVNS) aims to mitigate this by targeting specific fiber types within the nerve to produce functionally specific effects. In recent years, several key paradigms of sVNS have been developed-spatially selective, fiber-selective, anodal block, neural titration, and kilohertz electrical stimulation block-as well as various stimulation pulse parameters and electrode array geometries. sVNS can significantly reduce the severity of side effects, and in some cases increase efficacy of the treatment. While most studies have focused on fiber-selective sVNS, spatially selective sVNS has demonstrated comparable mitigation of side-effects. It has the potential to achieve greater specificity and provide crucial information about vagal nerve physiology. Anodal block achieves strong side-effect mitigation too, but is much less specific than fiber- and spatially selective paradigms. The major hurdle to achieving better selectivity of VNS is a limited knowledge of functional anatomical organization of vagus nerve. It is also crucial to optimize electrode array geometry and pulse shape, as well as expand the applications of sVNS beyond the current focus on cardiovascular disease.

Keywords: electrical stimulation; fascicular anatomy; fiber-specificity; neuromodulation; spatial specificity; vagus nerve.

PMID: 34108861 PMCID: PMC8180849 DOI: 10.3389/fnins.2021.685872