Reduction of pentylenetetrazole-induced seizure activity in awake rats by seizure-triggered trigeminal nerve stimulation

J Neurosci. 2000 Nov 1;20(21):8160-8. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.20-21-08160.2000.


Stimulation of the vagus nerve has become an effective method for desynchronizing the highly coherent neural activity typically associated with epileptic seizures. This technique has been used in several animal models of seizures as well as in humans suffering from epilepsy. However, application of this technique has been limited to unilateral stimulation of the vagus nerve, typically delivered according to a fixed duty cycle, independently of whether ongoing seizure activity is present. Here, we report that stimulation of another cranial nerve, the trigeminal nerve, can also cause cortical and thalamic desynchronization, resulting in a reduction of seizure activity in awake rats. Furthermore, we demonstrate that providing this stimulation only when seizure activity begins results in more effective and safer seizure reduction per second of stimulation than with previous methods. Seizure activity induced by intraperitoneal injection of pentylenetetrazole was recorded from microwire electrodes in the thalamus and cortex of awake rats while the infraorbital branch of the trigeminal nerve was stimulated via a chronically implanted nerve cuff electrode. Continuous unilateral stimulation of the trigeminal nerve reduced electrographic seizure activity by up to 78%, and bilateral trigeminal stimulation was even more effective. Using a device that automatically detects seizure activity in real time on the basis of multichannel field potential signals, we demonstrated that seizure-triggered stimulation was more effective than the stimulation protocol involving a fixed duty cycle, in terms of the percent seizure reduction per second of stimulation. In contrast to vagus nerve stimulation studies, no substantial cardiovascular side effects were observed by unilateral or bilateral stimulation of the trigeminal nerve. These findings suggest that trigeminal nerve stimulation is safe in awake rats and should be evaluated as a therapy for human seizures. Furthermore, the results demonstrate that seizure-triggered trigeminal nerve stimulation is technically feasible and could be further developed, in conjunction with real-time seizure-predicting paradigms, to prevent seizures and reduce exposure to nerve stimulation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiopathology
  • Cortical Synchronization
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Electric Stimulation Therapy*
  • Electrodes, Implanted
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality
  • Heart Rate
  • Membrane Potentials
  • Pentylenetetrazole
  • Rats
  • Rats, Long-Evans
  • Reaction Time
  • Seizures / chemically induced
  • Seizures / diagnosis
  • Seizures / physiopathology
  • Seizures / therapy*
  • Thalamus / physiopathology
  • Trigeminal Nerve*
  • Wakefulness


  • Pentylenetetrazole