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Michael B. Henderson, Alan I. Green, Perry S. Bradford, David T. Chau, David W. Roberts and James C. Leiter

Object

The authors tested the hypothesis that deep brain stimulation (DBS) in the nucleus accumbens (NAcc) decreases alcohol intake in alcohol-preferring (P) rats after each animal has established a stable, large alcohol intake and after P rats with an established intake have been deprived of alcohol for 4–6 weeks.

Methods

Bipolar stimulating electrodes were bilaterally placed in the NAcc using stereotactic coordinates. In the first study, P rats (9 animals) were allowed to establish a stable pattern of alcohol intake (about 5–7 g/day) over approximately 2 weeks, and the acute effects of DBS in the NAcc (140–150 Hz, 60-μsec pulse width, and 200-μA current intensity) on alcohol intake and alcohol preference were studied. Each animal acted as its own control and received 1 hour of DBS followed by 1 hour of sham-DBS or vice versa on each of 2 sequential days. The order of testing (sham-DBS vs DBS) was randomized. In the second study, each animal was allowed to establish a stable alcohol intake and then the animal was deprived of alcohol for 4–6 weeks. Animals received DBS (6 rats) or sham-DBS (5 rats) in the NAcc for 24 hours starting when alcohol was reintroduced to each animal.

Results

Deep brain stimulation in the NAcc, as compared with a period of sham-DBS treatment in the same animals, acutely decreased alcohol preference. Furthermore, alcohol consumption and preference were significantly reduced in the DBS group compared with the sham treatment group during the first 24 hours that alcohol was made available after a period of forced abstinence.

Conclusions

The NAcc plays a key role in the rewarding and subsequent addictive properties of drugs of abuse in general and of alcohol in particular. Deep brain stimulation in the NAcc reduced alcohol consumption in P rats both acutely and after a period of alcohol deprivation. Therefore, DBS in the NAcc coupled with other neurophysiological measurements may be a useful tool in determining the role of the NAcc in the mesocorticolimbic reward circuit. Deep brain stimulation in the NAcc may also be an effective treatment for reducing alcohol consumption in patients who abuse alcohol and have not responded to other forms of therapy.

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Kendall H. Lee, Frederick L. Hitti, Mark H. Shalinsky, Uhnoh Kim, James C. Leiter and David W. Roberts

Object

The mechanism of action whereby high-frequency stimulation (HFS) in the thalamus ameliorates tremor and epilepsy is unknown. The authors studied the effects of HFS on thalamocortical relay neurons in a ferret in vitro slice preparation to test the hypothesis that HFS abolishes synchronized oscillations by neurotransmitter release.

Methods

Intracellular and extracellular electrophysiological recordings were made in thalamic slices. The neurons in the thalamic slice spontaneously generated spindle oscillations, and treatment with picrotoxin, a γ-aminobutyric acid A receptor antagonist, resulted in 3- to 4-Hz absence seizurelike activity. High-frequency stimulation (stimulation parameters: 10–1000-µA amplitude; 100-µsec pulse width; 100-Hz frequency; 1–60 seconds) was applied using a concentric bipolar stimulating electrode placed adjacent to the recording electrodes.

High-frequency stimulation within the thalamus generated inhibitory and excitatory postsynaptic potentials, membrane depolarization, an increase in action potential firing during the stimulation period, and abolished the spindle oscillations in the thalamocortical relay neurons. High-frequency stimulation applied to 20-µM picrotoxin-treated slices eliminated the 3- to 4-Hz absence seizurelike activity.

Conclusions

High-frequency stimulation eliminates spontaneous spindle oscillations and picrotoxin-induced absence seizurelike activity in thalamic slices by synaptic neurotransmitter release; thus, HFS may abolish synchronous oscillatory activities such as those that generate tremor and seizures. Paradoxically, HFS, which is excitatory, and surgical lesions of the ventrointermedius thalamus, which are presumably inhibitory, both suppress tremors. This paradox is resolved by recognizing that HFS-mediated neurotransmitter release and thalamic surgery both disrupt the circuit generating tremor or seizure, albeit by different mechanisms.