Vagal Nerve Activity and Short-Term Clinical Outcomes after Stroke: What Is Left May Not Be Right

Samih Badarny, Amal Abu Ayash, Galina Keigler, Chen Hanna Ryder, Yori Gidron

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Stroke is a leading cause of death worldwide. Multiple factors influence the severity of stroke. Normal functional and biological differences seen between the hemispheres may also be related to stroke severity. In the present study, we examined the differences in the severity of stroke as a function of stroke side, and whether patients’ vagal nerve activity moderated such differences. We included 87 patients with an ischemic stroke, whose medical records were retrospectively examined for background information (age, gender), stroke side and severity by NIHSS, length of stay in hospital, inflammation such as C-reactive protein, and vagal nerve activity. The vagal activity was indexed by patients’ heart-rate variability (HRV), fluctuations in the intervals between normal heartbeats, derived from patients’ ECG. Results revealed that patients with left-side stroke had significantly worse NIHSS scores (10.6) than those with right-sided stroke (7.6, p < 0.05). However, when dividing the sample into those with low versus high HRV (at the median), only when HRV was low, did patients with left-side stroke have a worse NIHSS score (10.9) compared to those with right-sided stroke (6.5, p < 0.05). In contrast, no differences in stroke severity were seen between left stroke (10.2) and right stoke (8.7, p > 0.05), when HRV was high. These results tended to remain the same when statistically controlling for age effects, which was related to NIHSS, but not to the stroke side. These findings suggest that patients with left-sided stroke may have more severe strokes than those with right-sided ones, but that adequate vagal nerve activity may protect against such differences. Possible mechanisms and suggestions for future directions are provided.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2446
JournalJournal of Clinical Medicine
Issue number7
StatePublished - 23 Mar 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 by the authors.


  • hemispheric differences
  • stroke
  • stroke severity
  • stroke side
  • vegal nerve activity
  • vegal nerve activity (HRV)


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