Suppressing irrelevant information in decision making is an essential everyday skill. We studied whether this ability could be improved in epileptic patients during vagus nerve stimulation (VNS). VNS is known to increase norepinephrine (NE) in the brain. NE is thought to improve several aspects of cognitive control, including the suppression of irrelevant information. Nineteen epileptic VNS patients executed the Eriksen flanker task twice, both during on and off stimulation. Distractor interference was indexed by the congruency effect, a standard empirical marker of cognitive control. We found a reduced congruency effect during stimulation, which indicates an improved ability to suppress distractor interference. This effect was only found in patients that are clinically determined VNS-responders (n = 10). As VNS increases NE in VNS-responders, our finding suggests a beneficial role of NE in cognitive control. At the same time, it suggests that VNS does not only reduce seizure frequency in epileptic patients, but also improves cognitive control.
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- reduced distrator
- vagus nerve
- Congruency effect
- Norepinephrine (NE)
- Cognitive control
- Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS)