Following traumatic brain injury (TBI), ischemia and hypoxia play a major role in further worsening of the damage, a process referred to as 'secondary injury'. Protecting neurons from causative factors of secondary injury has been the guiding principle of modern TBI management. Stimulation of trigeminal nerve induces pressor response and improves cerebral blood flow (CBF) by activating the rostral ventrolateral medulla. Moreover, it causes cerebrovasodilation through the trigemino-cerebrovascular system and trigemino-parasympathetic reflex. These effects are capable of increasing cerebral perfusion, making trigeminal nerve stimulation (TNS) a promising strategy for TBI management. Here, we investigated the use of electrical TNS for improving CBF and brain oxygen tension (PbrO2), with the goal of decreasing secondary injury. Severe TBI was produced using controlled cortical impact (CCI) in a rat model, and TNS treatment was delivered for the first hour after CCI. In comparison to TBI group, TBI animals with TNS treatment demonstrated significantly increased systemic blood pressure, CBF and PbrO2 at the hyperacute phase of TBI. Furthermore, rats in TNS-treatment group showed significantly reduced brain edema, blood-brain barrier disruption, lesion volume, and brain cortical levels of TNF-α and IL-6. These data provide strong early evidence that TNS could be an effective neuroprotective strategy.
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