Transcutaneous Vagus Nerve Stimulation and Sustained Attention

Atharva Chopde

Authors:  Atharva Chopde, Christina Clarke, John Williamson, Eric Porges, Edith Kaan

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Edith Kaan

College:  College of Liberal Arts and Sciences


The vagal nerve is one of the thirteen cranial nerves. One of its branches, the auricular branch, has connections into the concha of the human ear, and propagates signals to intercranial subcortical and cortical structures. This branch can be indirectly stimulated through the skin of the ear by a method called transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation (tVNS). tVNS has already been shown to have effects on working memory, inhibition, and associative learning. We are now interested in seeing if tVNS has an effect on sustained attention. In our study, we presented adult monolinguals with a statistical learning task. During this task, participants listen to a stream of speech sounds for ten minutes where they must click a button every time they notice when a syllable is immediately repeated. Participants did this task over two different sessions, one with tVNS and one sham session without stimulation. If tVNS does have an effect on sustained attention, we would expect there to be a significant difference in reaction time and/or accuracy on this task. Data collection and analysis is still ongoing, though we hypothesize that tVNS will result in the formation of stronger memory traces and thus an improvement in reaction time and accuracy.

Poster Pitch

Click the video below to view the student's poster pitch.


Click the image to enlarge.
5 Responses
  1. Mitchell Tozian

    Hey Atharva, I can’t come by your Zoom call because I’m in class right now, but I read over your poster and this is really interesting work! I’m wondering why individual differences were so significant, do you think it has something to do with the way the task (stats learning, right?) works? I ran participants in a study a while back that had a statistical learning section and as I recall, values for it were extremely disparate too.

  2. Pranav Chinmay

    Hi Atharva,

    Great job on the poster and video. Why did you choose to only use monolinguals in the study? Would multilingualism have much of an effect on success at this task?


    1. Anonymous

      Hey Chinmay, thanks, I found your proof very interesting too! I used only monolinguals simply to avoid any potential for unexpected random effects. While this is just speculation, it’s possible that multilinguals ability to process different languages may give them a boost in attention. It would definitely be interesting to do further studies to see if there multilingualism does have any extra effects!

  3. Atharva Chopde

    Hey Mitchell, thanks I’m glad you found it interesting! The task itself is derived from a stats learning paradigm but what participants are doing here is a completely different task. There may be a correlation though, individuals paying less attention to the task may also be learning less, which may be why we see so many individual differences in both tasks!