Introduction: Although neck muscle tension is considered a risk factor for migraine, pungent odors can act as a trigger to initiate an attack in sensitized individuals. Although noninvasive vagus nerve stimulation (nVNS) is now an approved treatment for chronic migraine, how it functions to inhibit trigeminal nociception in an episodic migraine model is not known. Objectives: The objectives of this study were to determine if nVNS could inhibit trigeminal nociception in a novel model of episodic migraine and investigate changes in the expression of proteins implicated in peripheral and central sensitization. Methods: Sprague-Dawley male rats were injected with an inflammatory agent in the trapezius muscle before exposure to pungent volatile compounds, which was used to initiate trigeminal nociceptor activation. The vagus nerve was stimulated transdermally by a 1-ms pulse of 5 kHz sine waves, repeated at 25 Hz for 2 minutes. Nocifensive head withdrawal response to von Frey filaments was determined and immunoreactive protein levels in the spinal cord and trigeminal ganglion (TG) were investigated. Results: Exposure to the pungent odor significantly increased the number of nocifensive withdrawals in response to mechanical stimulation of sensitized TG neurons mediated by neck muscle inflammation. Noninvasive vagus nerve stimulation inhibited nociception and repressed elevated levels of P-ERK in TG, Iba1 in microglia, and GFAP in astrocytes from sensitized animals exposed to the pungent odor. Conclusion: Our findings demonstrate that nVNS inhibits mechanical nociception and represses expression of proteins associated with peripheral and central sensitization of trigeminal neurons in a novel rodent model of episodic migraine.



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© 2017 The Authors. Published by WoltersKluwer Health, Inc. on behalf of The International Association for the Study of Pain. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives License 4.0 (CC BY-ND) which allows for redistribution, commercial and non-commercial, as long as it is passed along unchanged and in whole, with credit to the author.


Glia, Neural modulation, Nociception, Trigeminal, Vagus nerve stimulation

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Pain Reports