Effects of Transcutaneous Vagus Nerve Stimulation (tVNS) on Conflict-Related Behavioral Performance and Frontal Midline Theta Activity
- 10 Downloads
Several previous studies have highlighted the potential of transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation (tVNS) to enhance executive control of action. In the present study, we tested for effects of tVNS on behavioral performance and frontal midline theta activity during response conflicts. Frontal midline theta reflects transient activation of the posterior midfrontal cortex in situations requiring increased executive control of action. It is an established marker for top-down action control. We carried out a combined behavioral and electroencephalography (EEG) within-subjects experimental study employing a cued go–no-go-change task. Twenty-two healthy young adults participated. We found that tVNS enhanced global behavioral accuracy, i.e., decreased the proportion of erroneous and missed responses, compared with sham (placebo) stimulation, and reduced conflict costs on behavioral performance in go/change response conflicts. Furthermore, in trials eliciting go/stop conflicts, frontal midline theta was enhanced under tVNS. These findings corroborate the potential of tVNS to enhance executive control of action. For the first time, we show an effect of tVNS on frontal midline theta activity, which suggests that tVNS specifically interacts with the neural mechanisms underlying action control. We conclude that tVNS is a promising method to enhance executive control and recommend the further investigation of tVNS as a candidate treatment of clinically relevant executive control deficits.
KeywordstVNS EEG Executive control Response conflict Frontal midline theta
The work was funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft Sonderforschungsbereich Grant, SFB-779, TPA02, and the federal state of Saxony-Anhalt and the “European Regional Development Fund“ (ERDF 2014-2020), Vorhaben: Center for Behavioral Brain Sciences (CBBS), FKZ: ZS/2016/04/78113.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
- Bauer, S., Baier, H., Baumgartner, C., Bohlmann, K., Fauser, S., Graf, W., et al. (2016). Transcutaneous Vagus Nerve Stimulation (tVNS) for treatment of drug-resistant epilepsy: a randomized, double-blind clinical trial (cMPsE02). Brain Stimulation, 9(3), 356–363.PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- Bermejo, P., López, M., Larraya, I., Chamorro, J., Cobo, J. L., Ordóñez, S., et al. (2017). Innervation of the human cavum conchae and auditory canal: anatomical basis for transcutaneous auricular nerve stimulation. BioMed Research International, 2017, 7830919.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Beste, C., Steenbergen, L., Sellaro, R., Grigoriadou, S., Zhang, R., Chmielewski, W., et al. (2016). Effects of Concomitant Stimulation of the GABAergic and Norepinephrine System on Inhibitory Control ??? A Study Using Transcutaneous Vagus Nerve Stimulation. Brain Stimulation, 9(6), 811–818.PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- Borovikova, L.V., Ivanova, S., Zhang, M., Yang, H., Botchkina, G.I., Watkins, L.R., et al. (2000). Vagus nerve stimulation attenuates the systemic in¯ammatory response to endotoxin. 405, 5.Google Scholar
- Brown, T. E., & Landgraf, J. M. (2010). Improvements in executive function correlate with enhanced performance and functioning and health-related quality of life: evidence from 2 large, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trials in ADHD. Postgraduate Medicine, 122(5), 42–51.PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- Frömer, R., Maier, M., & Rahman, R. A. (2018). Group-level EEG-processing pipeline for flexible single trial-based analyses including linear mixed models. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 12, 48.Google Scholar
- Hall, S.D., Barnes, G.R., Furlong, P.L., Seri, S., Hillebrand, A. (2009). Neuronal network pharmacodynamics of GABAergic modulation in the human cortex determined using pharmaco-magnetoencephalography. Human Brain Mapping, n/a–n/a.Google Scholar
- Hsieh, L.-T., Ranganath, C. (2014). Frontal midline theta oscillations during working memory maintenance and episodic encoding and retrieval. NeuroImage, 85(0 2). [cited 2019 Apr 10]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3859771/.
- Keute, M., Ruhnau, P., Heinze, H.-J., Zaehle, T. (2018a). Behavioral and electrophysiological evidence for GABAergic modulation through transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation. Clinical Neurophysiology.Google Scholar
- Lesh, T. A., Westphal, A. J., Niendam, T. A., Yoon, J. H., Minzenberg, M. J., Ragland, J. D., et al. (2013). Proactive and reactive cognitive control and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex dysfunction in first episode schizophrenia. NeuroImage Clinical, 2, 590–599.PubMedPubMedCentralCrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Ness, K. K., Gurney, J. G., Zeltzer, L. K., Leisenring, W., Mulrooney, D. A., Nathan, P. C., et al. (2008). The impact of limitations in physical, executive, and emotional function on health-related quality of life among adult survivors of childhood cancer: a report from the Childhood Cancer Survivor Study. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 89(1), 128–136.PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- Onton, J., Delorme, A., & Makeig, S. (2005). Frontal midline EEG dynamics during working memory. Clinical Neurophysiology, 27(2), 341–356.Google Scholar
- Posner, M. I., Snyder, C. R., & Solso, R. (2004). Attention and cognitive control. Cognitive Psychology Key Read, 205.Google Scholar
- Skirrow, C., McLoughlin, G., Banaschewski, T., Brandeis, D., Kuntsi, J., & Asherson, P. (2015). Normalisation of frontal theta activity following methylphenidate treatment in adult attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. European Neuropsychopharmacology, 25(1), 85–94.PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- Ventura-Bort, C., Wirkner, J., Genheimer, H., Wendt, J., Hamm, A.O., Weymar, M. (2018). Effects of transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation (tVNS) on the P300 and Alpha-amylase level: a pilot study. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. [cited 2019 Mar 15];12. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6021745/.
- Wang, C.-H., Lo, Y.-H., Pan, C.-Y., Chen, F.-C., Liang, W.-K., & Tsai, C.-L. (2015). Frontal midline theta as a neurophysiological correlate for deficits of attentional orienting in children with developmental coordination disorder. Psychophysiology, 52(6), 801–812.PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- Warren, C. M., Tona, K. D., Ouwerkerk, L., Van Paridon, J., Poletiek, F., van Steenbergen, H., et al. (2019). The neuromodulatory and hormonal effects of transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation as evidenced by salivary alpha amylase, salivary cortisol, pupil diameter, and the P3 event-related potential. Brain Stimulation, 12(3), 635–642.PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar