Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a promising experimental approach to treat various neurological disorders. However, the optimal stimulation paradigm and the precise mechanism of action of DBS are unknown. Neuro-imaging by means of Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography (SPECT) is a non-invasive manner of evaluating regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) changes, which are assumed to reflect changes in neural activity. In this study, rCBF changes induced by hippocampal DBS are evaluated by subtraction analysis of stimulation on/off using small animal microSPECT of the rat brain. Rats (n=13) were implanted with a multi-contact DBS electrode in the right hippocampus and injected with 10 mCi of HMPAO-Tc99(m) during application of various hippocampal DBS paradigms and amplitudes and during sham stimulation. Subtraction analysis revealed that hippocampal DBS caused a significant decrease in relative rCBF, both in the ipsi- (the side of the implanted electrode) and contralateral hippocampus. Hypoperfusion spread contralaterally with increasing stimulation amplitude. A clear distinction in spatial extent and intensity of hypoperfusion was observed between stimulation paradigms: bipolar Poisson Distributed Stimulation induced significant hypoperfusion ipsi- and contralaterally (p<0.01), while during other stimulation paradigms, rCBF-changes were less prominent. In conclusion, small animal microSPECT allows us to draw conclusions on the location, spatial extent and intensity of the hypoperfusion observed in the ipsi- and contralateral hippocampus, induced by hippocampal DBS. Our study demonstrates an innovative approach to visualize the effects of DBS and can be a useful tool in evaluating the effect of various stimulation paradigms and target areas for DBS.
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