Universiteit Leiden

Stimulate your vagus nerve for more creativity

Stimulate your vagus nerve for more creativity

Creativity is one of the most important cognitive skills in our complex and fast-changing world. How can the vagus nerve enhance our creativity?

For the first time, my colleague Laura Steenbergen and I proved that the stimulation of the vagus nerve (X cranial nerve) improved creativity.


“Creativity is just connecting things”, Steve Jobs, arguably one of the most creative minds of our time, once said. From a scientific point of view, creativity is a complex concept, commonly defined as the ability to generate ideas, solutions, or products that are both novel and appropriate, and is not about connecting the obvious, but about making remote associations. To investigate whether the vagus nerve is involved in creativity, we employed transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation (tVNS), a novel non-invasive brain stimulation technique to stimulate afferent fibers of the vagus nerve.


While being stimulated, our participants performed validated creativity tasks. Our results demonstrate that active tVNS, compared to sham (fake) stimulation, enhanced divergent thinking, the ability to generate novel ideas to open-ended problems (e.g., generate uses for a brick).


Why stimulating the vagus nerve enhances creativity?

We believe that active tVNS increases GABA levels. GABA is a very important neurotransmitter that help us to select the right response among competing options, a crucial feature to carry out creative thinking. 


You want to know more? Please read our article:


Colzato, L. S., Ritter, S. M., & Steenbergen, L. (2018). Transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation (tVNS) enhances divergent thinking. Neuropsychologia.

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