Transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation boosts associative memory in older individuals

H.I.L. Jacobs*, J.M. Riphagen, C.M. Razat, S. Wiese, A.T. Sack

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

117 Citations (Web of Science)


Direct vagus nerve stimulation (dVNS) is known to improve mood, epilepsy, and memory. Memory improvements have been observed in Alzheimer's disease patients after long-term stimulation. The potential of transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation (tVNS), a noninvasive alternative to dVNS, to alter memory performance remains unknown. We aimed to investigate the effect of a single-session tVNS on associative memory performance in healthy older individuals. To investigate this, we performed a single-blind sham-controlled randomized crossover pilot study in healthy older individuals (n = 30, 50% female). During the stimulation or sham condition, participants performed an associative face-name memory task. tVNS enhanced the number of hits of the memory task, compared with the sham condition. This effect was specific to the experimental task. Participants reported few side effects. We conclude that tVNS is a promising neuromodulatory technique to improve associative memory performance in older individuals, even after a single session. More research is necessary to investigate its underlying neural mechanisms, the impact of varying stimulation parameters, and its applicability in patients with cognitive decline.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1860-1867
JournalNeurobiology of Aging
Issue number5
Early online date27 Feb 2015
Publication statusPublished - 27 Feb 2015

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