Medial septal stimulation increases seizure threshold and improves cognition in epileptic rats

Ali Izadi, Aleksandr Pevzner, Darrin J. Lee, Arne D. Ekstrom, Kiarash Shahlaie, Gene G. Gurkoff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Background: Temporal lobe epilepsy is most prevalent among focal epilepsies, and nearly one-third of patients are refractory to pharmacological intervention. Persistent cognitive and neurobehavioral comorbidities also occur due to the recurrent nature of seizures and medication-related side effects. Hypothesis: Electrical neuromodulation is an effective strategy to reduce seizures both in animal models and clinically, but its efficacy to modulate cognition remains unclear. We hypothesized that theta frequency stimulation of the medial septum would increase septohippocampal oscillations, increase seizure threshold, and improve spatial learning in a rat model of pilocarpine-induced epilepsy. Methods: Sham and pilocarpine rats were implanted with electrodes in the medial septum, hippocampus and prefrontal cortex. EEG was assessed days prior to and following stimulation. Sham and pilocarpine-treated rats received either no stimulation, continuous (throughout each behavior), or pre-task (one minute prior to each behavior) 7.7 Hz septal stimulation during the Barnes maze spatial navigation test and also during assessment of flurothyl-induced seizures. Results: Both continuous and pre-task stimulation prevented epilepsy-associated reductions in theta oscillations over time. Additionally, both stimulation paradigms significantly improved spatial navigation in the Barnes maze, reducing latency and improving search strategy. Moreover, stimulation led to significant increases in seizure threshold in pilocarpine-treated rats. There was no evidence of cognitive enhancement or increased seizure threshold in stimulated sham rats. Conclusion: These findings have profound implications as theta stimulation of the septum represents a single frequency and target that has the potential to both improve cognition and reduce seizures for patients with refractory epilepsy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)735-742
Number of pages8
JournalBrain Stimulation
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Deep brain stimulation
  • Medial septal nucleus
  • Pilocarpine
  • Temporal lobe epilepsy
  • Theta oscillations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Clinical Neurology


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