Vagus nerve stimulation in cerebral stroke: biological mechanisms, therapeutic modalities, clinical applications, and future directions

Author: Li Du1, Xuan He1, Xiaoxing Xiong2, Xu Zhang2, Zhihong Jian2, Zhenxing Yang2
1 Department of Anesthesiology, Renmin Hospital of Wuhan University, Wuhan, Hubei Province, China.
2 Department of Neurosurgery, Renmin Hospital of Wuhan University, Wuhan, Hubei Province, China.
Conference/Journal: Neural Regen Res
Date published: 2024 Aug 1
Other: Volume ID: 19 , Issue ID: 8 , Pages: 1707-1717 , Special Notes: doi: 10.4103/1673-5374.389365. , Word Count: 342

Stroke is a major disorder of the central nervous system that poses a serious threat to human life and quality of life. Many stroke victims are left with long-term neurological dysfunction, which adversely affects the well-being of the individual and the broader socioeconomic impact. Currently, post-stroke brain dysfunction is a major and difficult area of treatment. Vagus nerve stimulation is a Food and Drug Administration-approved exploratory treatment option for autism, refractory depression, epilepsy, and Alzheimer's disease. It is expected to be a novel therapeutic technique for the treatment of stroke owing to its association with multiple mechanisms such as altering neurotransmitters and the plasticity of central neurons. In animal models of acute ischemic stroke, vagus nerve stimulation has been shown to reduce infarct size, reduce post-stroke neurological damage, and improve learning and memory capacity in rats with stroke by reducing the inflammatory response, regulating blood-brain barrier permeability, and promoting angiogenesis and neurogenesis. At present, vagus nerve stimulation includes both invasive and non-invasive vagus nerve stimulation. Clinical studies have found that invasive vagus nerve stimulation combined with rehabilitation therapy is effective in improving upper limb motor and cognitive abilities in stroke patients. Further clinical studies have shown that non-invasive vagus nerve stimulation, including ear/cervical vagus nerve stimulation, can stimulate vagal projections to the central nervous system similarly to invasive vagus nerve stimulation and can have the same effect. In this paper, we first describe the multiple effects of vagus nerve stimulation in stroke, and then discuss in depth its neuroprotective mechanisms in ischemic stroke. We go on to outline the results of the current major clinical applications of invasive and non-invasive vagus nerve stimulation. Finally, we provide a more comprehensive evaluation of the advantages and disadvantages of different types of vagus nerve stimulation in the treatment of cerebral ischemia and provide an outlook on the developmental trends. We believe that vagus nerve stimulation, as an effective treatment for stroke, will be widely used in clinical practice to promote the recovery of stroke patients and reduce the incidence of disability.

PMID: 38103236 DOI: 10.4103/1673-5374.389365