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Posttraining electrical stimulation of vagal afferents with concomitant vagal efferent inactivation enhances memory storage processes in the rat.

  • Clark, K B
  • Smith, D C
  • Hassert, D L
  • Browning, R A
  • Naritoku, D K
  • Jensen, R A
Published Article
Neurobiology of learning and memory
Publication Date
Nov 01, 1998
PMID: 9774527


Peripherally administered or released substances that modulate memory storage, but do not freely enter the brain, may produce their effects on memory by activating peripheral receptors that send messages centrally through the vagus nerve. Indeed, vagus nerve stimulation enhances memory performance, although it is unclear whether this effect is due to the activation of vagal afferents or efferents. To eliminate the possible influence of descending fibers on memory storage processes, rats were implanted with cuff electrode/catheter systems along the left cervical vagus. Forty-eight hours following surgery, each animal received a 3. 0-microliter infusion (1.0 microliter/min) of either lidocaine hydrochloride (75.0 mM) or isotonic saline below the point of stimulation. Animals were then trained 10 min later on an inhibitory-avoidance task with a 0.75-mA, 1.0-s foot shock. Sham stimulation or vagus nerve stimulation (0.5-ms biphasic pulses; 20.0 Hz; 30 s; 0.2, 0.4, or 0.8 mA) was administered immediately after training. Memory, tested 24 h later, was enhanced by stimulation whether descending vagus nerve fibers were inactivated or not. Both lidocaine- and saline-infused groups showed an intensity-dependent, inverted-U-shaped pattern of retention performance, with the greatest effect observed for 0.4 mA (U = 9, p < .05, and U = 7, p < .01, respectively). Additionally, animals that received lidocaine infusions, but no vagus nerve stimulation, showed impaired memory compared to the performance of saline-infused control animals (U = 11, p < .05). Together, these findings suggest that vagal afferents carry messages about peripheral states that lead to the modulation of memory storage and that the memory-enhancing effect produced by vagus nerve stimulation is not mediated via the activation of vagal efferents.

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