Neurogenesis and chronic neurobehavioral outcomes are partially improved by vagus nerve stimulation in a mouse model of Gulf War illness. Academic Article uri icon


  • Gulf War illness (GWI) is a chronic, multi-symptom disorder that has impacted approximately one third of Gulf War veterans. GWI and its symptoms have been linked to the exposure to neurological chemicals, including the anti-nerve gas drug pyridostigmine bromide (PB) and the insecticide permethrin (PER), among others. Mouse models utilizing these chemicals have reported symptomology analogous to human GWI. These changes include behavioral and cognitive impairment, neuroinflammation and hippocampal pathogenesis. Disease modifying interventions that target these pathological components are desperately needed. Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) is FDA approved for drug-resistant epilepsy and depression. VNS has also been used off-label to target a myriad of symptoms, some of which are encompassed within the Kansas and CDC definitions of clinical GWI symptomology. A GWI animal model in which mice are exposed to a daily injection of PB and PER for 10 consecutive days has been shown to exhibit cognitive impairment and hippocampal pathology. The purpose of this study was to determine if 2-4 weeks of continuous vagus nerve stimulation initiated at 32 weeks after exposure to PB and PER would improve cognitive performance and hippocampal pathology. The results of the study revealed that exposure to PB and PER produces long-term cognitive deficits and reduced hippocampal neurogenesis. The results also showed that the VNS treatment was anxiolytic, improved some aspects of pattern separation deficits, and mitigated the reduced hippocampal neurogenesis. Thus, VNS improves outcomes in a mouse model of GWI and should be examined as a potential therapeutic strategy for mitigating some symptomology associated with GWI.

published proceedings

  • Neurotoxicology

altmetric score

  • 0.5

author list (cited authors)

  • Iannucci, J., Nizamutdinov, D., & Shapiro, L. A.

citation count

  • 4

complete list of authors

  • Iannucci, Jaclyn||Nizamutdinov, Damir||Shapiro, Lee A

publication date

  • January 2022