Christa McIntyre, University of Texas at Dallas
Abstract: The vagus nerve serves as a bridge between the peripheral autonomic nervous system and the brain. It signals the brain during times of high sympathetic activity, promoting rapid storage of memories that are important for survival. As part of the parasympathetic nervous system, activation of the vagus nerve counteracts the peripheral effects of the sympathetic stress response. Electrical stimulation of the vagus nerve is approved for use in humans to treat medication-refractory epilepsy and depression. Emerging evidence suggests that vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) may be a beneficial adjunct to exposure-based therapies through its pairing-specific enhancement of memory consolidation and concurrent suppression of anxiety. In this talk, I will share our preclinical findings indicating that VNS enhances extinction of conditioned fear in a rat model of posttraumatic stress disorder.