Thalamic stimulation improves postictal cortical arousal and behavior

Jingwen Xu, Maria Milagros Galardi, Brian Pok, Kishan K. Patel, Charlie W. Zhao, John P. Andrews, Shobhit Singla, Cian P. McCafferty, Li Feng, Eric T. Musonza, Adam J. Kundishora, Abhijeet Gummadavelli, Jason L. Gerrard, Mark Laubach, Nicholas D. Schiff, Hal Blumenfeld

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


The postictal state following seizures is characterized by impaired consciousness and has a major negative impact on individuals with epilepsy. Previous work in disorders of consciousness including the postictal state suggests that bilateral deep brain stimulation (DBS) of the thalamic intralaminar central lateral nucleus (CL) may improve level of arousal. We tested the effects of postictal thalamic CL DBS in a rat model of secondarily generalized seizures elicited by electrical hippocampal stimulation. Thalamic CL DBS was delivered at 100 Hz during the postictal period in 21 female rats while measuring cortical electrophysiology and behavior. The postictal period was characterized by frontal cortical slow waves, like other states of depressed consciousness. In addition, rats exhibited severely impaired responses on two different behavioral tasks in the postictal state. Thalamic CL stimulation prevented postictal cortical slow wave activity but produced only modest behavioral improvement on a spontaneous licking sucrose reward task. We therefore also tested responses using a lever-press shock escape/avoidance (E/A) task. Rats achieved high success rates responding to the sound warning on the E/A task even during natural slow wave sleep but were severely impaired in the postictal state. Unlike the spontaneous licking task, thalamic CL DBS during the E/A task produced a marked improvement in behavior, with significant increases in lever-press shock avoidance with DBS compared with sham controls. These findings support the idea that DBS of subcortical arousal structures may be a novel therapeutic strategy benefitting patients with medically and surgically refractory epilepsy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7343-7354
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number38
StatePublished - Sep 16 2020


  • Consciousness
  • Deep brain stimulation
  • Epilepsy
  • Generalized tonic-clonic seizures
  • Sleep
  • Thalamus


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