People tend to slow down after they commit an error, a phenomenon known as post-error slowing (PES). It has been proposed that slowing after negative feedback or unforeseen errors is linked to the activity of the locus coeruleus–norepinephrine (LC–NE) system, but there is little direct evidence for this hypothesis. Here, we assessed the causal role of the noradrenergic system in modulating PES by applying transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation (tVNS), a new noninvasive and safe method to stimulate the vagus nerve and to increase NE concentrations in the brain. A single-blind, sham-controlled, between-group design was used to assess the effect of tVNS in healthy young volunteers (n = 40) during two cognitive tasks designed to measure PES. Results showed increased PES during active tVNS, as compared with sham stimulation. This effect was of similar magnitude for the two tasks. These findings provide evidence for an important role of the noradrenergic system in PES.

You do not currently have access to this content.