Mechanisms of action of vagus nerve stimulation (VNS)

Mark S. George, Ziad Nahas, Daryl E. Bohning, Qiwen Mu, F. Andrew Kozel, Jeffrey Borckhardt, Stewart Denslow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


In 1992, Dr Jake Zabara discovered in a canine model that repeated stimulation of the vagus nerve in the neck could stop seizures. Since that time, repeated stimulation of the vagus nerve has been FDA approved as an anticonvulsant. Zabara's work is built on a 50-year-old theme in the literature where scientists had sought to exploit the fact that the vagus nerve is composed of 80% afferent fibers. Thus vagus stimulation might potentially provide a 'window' into the brain. This manuscript reviews the basic science and brain imaging work done to date with VNS, attempting to understand how VNS affects the brain. This research is crucial to perfecting VNS as an anticonvulsant, and for determining other neuropsychiatric conditions that might be helped by VNS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)71-79
Number of pages9
JournalClinical Neuroscience Research
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jul 2004

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors and the Brain Stimulation Laboratory have received grant support from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Stanley Foundation, the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression (NARSAD), the Borderline Personality Disorders Foundation (BPDRF), NINDS grant RO1-AG40956, the Charles A. Dana Foundation, and Cyberonics. Drs George and Nahas have received speakers fees from Cyberonics, and Dr George is a consultant to Cyberonics.


  • Anticonvulsant
  • Antidepressant
  • Brain stimulation
  • Locus ceruleus
  • VNS
  • Vagus nerve
  • fMRI


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