Effects of noninvasive facial nerve stimulation in the dog middle cerebral artery occlusion model of ischemic stroke

Borsody MK, Yamada C, Bielawski D, et al. 

Stroke 2014;45:1102-1107.

BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Facial nerve stimulation has been proposed as a new treatment of ischemic stroke because autonomic components of the nerve dilate cerebral arteries and increase cerebral blood flow when activated. A noninvasive facial nerve stimulator device based on pulsed magnetic stimulation was tested in a dog middle cerebral artery occlusion model. METHODS: We used an ischemic stroke dog model involving injection of autologous blood clot into the internal carotid artery that reliably embolizes to the middle cerebral artery. Thirty minutes after middle cerebral artery occlusion, the geniculate ganglion region of the facial nerve was stimulated for 5 minutes. Brain perfusion was measured using gadolinium-enhanced contrast MRI, and ATP and total phosphate levels were measured using 31P spectroscopy. Separately, a dog model of brain hemorrhage involving puncture of the intracranial internal carotid artery served as an initial examination of facial nerve stimulation safety. RESULTS: Facial nerve stimulation caused a significant improvement in perfusion in the hemisphere affected by ischemic stroke and a reduction in ischemic core volume in comparison to sham stimulation control. The ATP/total phosphate ratio showed a large decrease poststroke in the control group versus a normal level in the stimulation group. The same stimulation administered to dogs with brain hemorrhage did not cause hematoma enlargement. CONCLUSIONS: These results support the development and evaluation of a noninvasive facial nerve stimulator device as a treatment of ischemic stroke.