Electrophysiologic studies of cervical vagus nerve stimulation in humans: II. Evoked potentials.
Evidence from studies of experimental animals indicates that electrical stimulation of the vagus nerve not only can alter the EEG but evokes activity in specific brain areas. We report effects of electrical stimulation of the vagus nerve in 9 patients with medically intractable seizures as part of a clinical trial of chronic vagal stimulation for control of epilepsy. The left vagus nerve in the neck was stimulated with a programmable implanted stimulator. Effects of stimulus amplitude, duration, and rate were studied. Noncephalic reference recording of the vagus nerve evoked potential showed some unusual properties: a scalp negative component occurred with a latency of 12 ms, very high amplitude (< or = 60 microV), and widespread scalp distribution. Field distribution studies indicated that this potential was myogenic in origin and generated in the region of the stimulating electrodes in the neck area. Chemically induced muscle paralysis confirmed this observation. Bipolar scalp recording showed several small-amplitude topographically distinct potentials occurring in 30 ms. No effect, either acute or chronic, could be detected on pattern-reversal evoked potentials, auditory brainstem evoked potentials, auditory 40-Hz potentials, or cognitive evoked potentials.