Effect of vagus nerve stimulation on cerebrospinal fluid monoamine metabolites, norepinephrine, and gamma-aminobutyric acid concentrations in depressed patients

Linda L. Carpenter, Francisco A. Moreno, Mitchel A. Kling, George M. Anderson, William T. Regenold, David M. Labiner, Lawrence H. Price

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81 Scopus citations


Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) has shown promising antidepressant effects in treatment-resistant depression, but the mechanisms of action are not known. Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) studies in epilepsy patients show that VNS alters concentrations of monamines and γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA), neurotransmitter systems possibly involved in the pathogenesis of depression. Twenty-one adults with treatment-resistant, recurrent, or chronic major depression underwent standardized lumbar puncture for collection of 12 mL CSF on three separate but identical procedure days during participation in the VNS D-02 clinical trial. All subjects remained on stable regimens of mood medications. Collections were made at baseline (2 weeks after surgical implantation but before device activation), week 12 (end of the acute-phase study), and week 24. Cerebrospinal fluid concentrations of norepinephrine (NE), 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid (5-HIAA), homovanillic acid (HVA), and 3-methoxy-4-hydroxyphenylglycol (MHPG) were determined with high-performance liquid chromatography. Concentrations of GABA were assayed with mass spectrometry. Comparison of sham versus active VNS revealed a significant (mean 21%) VNS-associated increase in CSF HVA. Mean CSF concentrations of NE, 5-HIAA, MHPG, and GABA did not change significantly. Higher baseline HVA/5-HIAA ratio predicted worse clinical outcome. Although several of the CSF neurochemical effects we observed in this VNS study were similar to those described in the literature for antidepressants and electroconvulsive therapy, the results do not suggest a putative antidepressant mechanism of action for VNS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)418-426
Number of pages9
JournalBiological Psychiatry
Issue number6
StatePublished - Sep 15 2004



  • Cerebrospinal fluid
  • GABA
  • depression
  • mechanism
  • monoamines
  • neurotransmitters
  • norepinephrine
  • vagus nerve stimulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biological Psychiatry

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