Enhancing Motor Sequence Learning via Transcutaneous Auricular Vagus Nerve Stimulation (taVNS): An EEG Study

Author: Long Chen, Chenghu Tang, Zhongpeng Wang, Lei Zhang, Bin Gu, Xiuyun Liu, Dong Ming
Conference/Journal: IEEE J Biomed Health Inform
Date published: 2023 Dec 18
Other: Volume ID: PP , Pages: PP , Special Notes: doi: 10.1109/JBHI.2023.3344176. , Word Count: 251

Motor learning plays a crucial role in human life, and various neuromodulation methods have been utilized to strengthen or improve it. Transcutaneous auricular vagus nerve stimulation (taVNS) has gained increasing attention due to its non-invasive nature, affordability and ease of implementation. Although the potential of taVNS on regulating motor learning has been suggested, its actual regulatory effect has yet been fully explored. Electroencephalogram (EEG) analysis provides an in-depth understanding of cognitive processes involved in motor learning so as to offer methodological support for regulation of motor learning. To investigate the effect of taVNS on motor learning, this study recruited 22 healthy subjects to participate a single-blind, sham-controlled, and within-subject serial reaction time task (SRTT) experiment. Every subject involved in two sessions at least one week apart and received a 20-minute active/sham taVNS in each session. Behavioral indicators as well as EEG characteristics during the task state, were extracted and analyzed. The results revealed that compared to the sham group, the active group showed higher learning performance. Additionally, the EEG results indicated that after taVNS, the motor-related cortical potential amplitudes and alpha-gamma modulation index decreased significantly and functional connectivity based on partial directed coherence towards frontal lobe was enhanced. These findings suggest that taVNS can improve motor learning, mainly through enhancing cognitive and memory functions rather than simple movement learning. This study confirms the positive regulatory effect of taVNS on motor learning, which is particularly promising as it offers a potential avenue for enhancing motor skills and facilitating rehabilitation.

PMID: 38109248 DOI: 10.1109/JBHI.2023.3344176