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Effects of Transdermal Vagal Nerve Stimulation (tVNS) on Cognitive Performance under Sleep Deprivation Stress (80JSC020T0009)
Principal Investigator
Research Area:
Behavior and performance
Species Studied
Scientific Name: Homo sapiens Species: Human

Vagal Nerve Stimulation (VNS) has been shown to significantly improve memory and performance of cognitive tasks in both rats and humans. It has also served as an FDA approved medical treatment for epilepsy and depression for over two decades. VNS has been shown to activate regions of the brain that serve as hotspots for epilepsy, including the hippocampus and amygdala. These regions of the brain are also known to be critically important for learning and comprehension, as well as cognition generally. Likewise, the vagal nerve has direct connections with the locus coeruleus (LC). The LC is the brain’s primary norepinephrine nucleus and regulates wakefulness, arousal, attention, and is involved in learning. All of these aspects of cognition are negatively affected by fatigue. Human subjects receiving VNS have shown specific enhancements in comprehension, leading to enhanced decision making. In addition, VNS has been shown to increase neuronal plasticity in humans. In small animal models, VNS has been shown to enhance decision making compared to animals receiving sham stimulation as evidence suggests that it augments plasticity in the brain in general.

The main goal of this study is to evaluate the efficacy of transdermal vagal nerve stimulation (tVNS) to mitigate the effects of fatigue induced by sleep deprivation on aspects of cognition including attention, arousal, multitasking, and memory in populations of Department of Defense (DoD) subjects. The primary objective is to demonstrate a >20% improvement in at least one cognitive skill during sleep deprivation stress when compared to the control population. The secondary objective is to assess effects of tVNS on subjective mood.

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Task performance and analysis
Sleep Deprivation

Data Information
Data Availability
Archiving in progress. Data is not yet available for this experiment.

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Mission/Study Information
Mission Launch/Start Date Landing/End Date Duration
Ground 05/01/2009 In Progress

Additional Information
Managing NASA Center
Johnson Space Center (JSC)
Responsible NASA Representative
Institutional Support
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Proposal Date
Proposal Source
2018 HERO 80JSC018N0001-Crew Health and Performance (FLAGSHIP, OMNIBUS). Appendix A-Flagship, Appendix B-Omnibus