Electrical stimulation offers the potential to develop novel strategies for the treatment of refractory medial temporal lobe epilepsy. In particular, direct electrical stimulation of the hippocampus presents the opportunity to modulate pathological dynamics at the ictal focus, although the neuroanatomical substrate of this region renders it susceptible to altering cognition and affective processing as a side effect. We investigated the effects of three electrical stimulation paradigms on separate groups of freely moving rats (sham, 8-Hz and 40-Hz sinewave stimulation of the ventral/intermediate hippocampus, where 8- and 40-Hz stimulation were chosen to mimic naturally occurring hippocampal oscillations). Animals exhibited attenuated locomotor and exploratory activity upon stimulation at 40 Hz, but not at sham or 8-Hz stimulation. Such behavioral modifications were characterized by a significant reduction in rearing frequency, together with increased freezing behavior. Logistic regression analysis linked the observed changes in animal locomotion to 40-Hz electrical stimulation independently of time-related variables occurring during testing. Spectral analysis, conducted to monitor the electrophysiological profile in the CA1 area of the dorsal hippocampus, showed a significant reduction in peak theta frequency, together with reduced theta power in the 40-Hz vs. the sham stimulation animal group, independent of locomotion speed (theta range: 4-12 Hz). These findings contribute to the development of novel and safe medical protocols by indicating a strategy to constrain or optimize parameters in direct hippocampal electrical stimulation.
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