Transcutaneous Vagus Nerve Stimulation Affects Implicit Spiritual Self-Representations

Alessandra Finisguerra, Cristiano Crescentini, Cosimo Urgesi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recently, the empirical interest in religiousness and spirituality has grown, showing the association between the activity of a complex network of subcortical and fronto-parietal areas and explicit and implicit religious/spiritual representations. Importantly, while the causal link between parietal stimulation and implicit religiousness/spirituality has been demonstrated, the role of subcortical and medial cortical areas has not been directly investigated. Here, we assessed how implicit and explicit religious or spiritual representations are modulated by transcutaneous Vagus Nerve Stimulation (tVNS), a novel non-invasive method to stimulate subcortical and medial cortical structures. Implicit and explicit representations were tested with Religious, Spiritual and Self-esteem (as control) Implicit Association Tests and questionnaires. Active-tVNS, compared to sham-tVNS, affected implicit spiritual, but not religious or control self-representations, reducing the strength of the automatic association between the self and the spiritual dimension. Explicit self-representations were left unchanged. Findings shed new light on the neurobiological mechanisms of implicit spirituality.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)144-159
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1 2019


  • Bodily-Self
  • Implicit Association Test
  • Religiousness
  • Spirituality
  • transcutaneous Vagus Nerve Stimulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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