Central Nervous System Electrical Stimulation for Neuroprotection in Acute Cerebral Ischemia: Meta-Analysis of Preclinical Studies

Stroke. 2019 Oct;50(10):2892-2901. doi: 10.1161/STROKEAHA.119.025364. Epub 2019 Sep 4.


Background and Purpose- Brain electrical stimulation, widely studied to facilitate recovery from stroke, has also been reported to confer direct neuroprotection in preclinical models of acute cerebral ischemia. Systematic review of controlled preclinical acute cerebral ischemia studies would aid in planning for initial human clinical trials. Methods- A systematic Medline search identified controlled, preclinical studies of central nervous system electrical stimulation in acute cerebral ischemia. Studies were categorized among 6 stimulation strategies. Three strategies applied different stimulation types to tissues within the ischemic zone (cathodal hemispheric stimulation [CHS], anodal hemispheric stimulation, and pulsed hemispheric stimulation), and 3 strategies applied deep brain stimulation to different neuronal targets remote from the ischemic zone (fastigial nucleus stimulation, subthalamic vasodilator area stimulation, and dorsal periaqueductal gray stimulation). Random-effects meta-analysis assessed electrical stimulation modification of final infarct volume. Study-level risk of bias and intervention-level readiness-for-translation were assessed using formal rating scales. Results- Systematic search identified 28 experiments in 21 studies, including a total of 350 animals, of electrical stimulation in preclinical acute cerebral ischemia. Overall, in animals undergoing electrical stimulation, final infarct volumes were reduced by 37% (95% CI, 34%-40%; P<0.001), compared with control. There was evidence of heterogeneity of efficacy among stimulation strategies (I2=93.1%, Pheterogeneity<0.001). Among the within-ischemic zone stimulation strategies, only CHS significantly reduced the infarct volume (27 %; 95% CI, 22%-33%; P<0.001); among the remote-from ischemic zone approaches, all (fastigial nucleus stimulation, subthalamic vasodilator area stimulation, and dorsal periaqueductal gray stimulation) reduced infarct volumes by approximately half. On formal rating scales, CHS studies had the lowest risk of bias, and CHS had the highest overall quality of intervention-level evidence supporting readiness to proceed to clinical testing. Conclusions- Electrical stimulation reduces final infarct volume across preclinical studies. CHS shows the most robust evidence and is potentially appropriate for progression to early-stage human clinical trial testing as a promising neuroprotective intervention.

Keywords: acute stroke; central nervous system; electrical stimulation; meta-analysis; neuroprotection.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Ischemia / pathology*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Electric Stimulation / methods*
  • Mice
  • Stroke / pathology*