ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2022, Vol. 30 ›› Issue (10): 2269-2277.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2022.02269

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The regulatory mechanism of transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation on inhibition control

WANG Rong1, CHEN Xiaoyi1, DU Xue1, JIANG Jun2()   

  1. 1College of Education Science, Chongqing Normal University, Chongqing 401331, China
    2Department of Basic Psychology, School of Psychology, Army Medical University, Chongqing 400038, China
  • Received:2021-10-13 Online:2022-10-15 Published:2022-08-24
  • Contact: JIANG Jun


Transcutaneous vagal nerve stimulation (tVNS) is a new, safe and non-invasive brain nerve stimulation regulation technology. It applies intermittent pulse electrical stimulation to the vagus nerve branches in the human outer ear, allowing electrical signals noninvasively transmitted into the brain through the vagus nerve pathway, so as to regulate on cerebral cortical activity and related neurobiochemical markers. Previous studies have found that tVNS has a positive regulatory effect on inhibitory control.

At present, there are two views on how tVNS regulates inhibitory control. One is that tVNS regulates the locus coeruleus-norepinephrine system (LC-NE), and then the activity of the LC-NE system directly regulates the performance in inhibitory control tasks. The other is that tVNS promotes the release of the neurotransmitter g-aminobutyric acid (GABA), and the changes of GABA concentration plays an important regulatory effect on the inhibitory control. After summarizing and reviewing the behavioral and physiological regulation effects of tVNS on inhibitory control, we further elucidated the neurobiochemical mechanism of tVNS regulating inhibitory control and the problems of previous literatures. We suggested that future research should further clarify the regulation effect and mechanism of tVNS on inhibitory control, and provide reliable theoretical basis and data support for basic research and clinical application of tVNS.

In the future, we can further construct studies from the following three aspects. Firstly, the parameter settings of tVNS should be continuously optimized, because of the results of previous studies are difficult to compare due to the differences in experimental tasks, stimulation modes and subject groups. To determine the optimal parameter, researchers should standardize the operation process of tVNS, and conduct a systematic comparative study on the setting of related stimulation parameters such as stimulation position, intensity, pulse width, frequency. Secondly, tVNS has great potential in promoting the recovery of inhibitory control functions, and thus future study should more focus on the regulation of tVNS on inhibitory control in healthy population, and strengthen the discussion and research on groups with impaired or declined inhibitory function. Finally, tVNS is not only a scientific research tool but also a promising and valuable intervention technology to explore the long-term positive effects of tVNS on inhibitory control in delaying cognitive aging, promoting cognitive development and treating neurological and psychiatric diseases. Therefore, future research can explore the long-term positive effect of tVNS on inhibitory function, and how to maintain or enhance this long-term positive effect.

Key words: tVNS, inhibitory control, LC-NE, GABA, biomarkers

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