Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) over vmPFC modulates interactions between reward and emotion in delay discounting

Aurélie L. Manuel*, Nicholas W. G. Murray, Olivier Piguet

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    17 Citations (Scopus)
    21 Downloads (Pure)


    Delay discounting requires computing trade-offs between immediate-small rewards and later-larger rewards. Negative and positive emotions shift decisions towards more or less impulsive responses, respectively. Models have conceptualized this trade-off by describing an interplay between “emotional” and “rational” processes, with the former involved during immediate choices and relying on the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC), and the latter involved in long-term choices and relying on the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC). Whether stimulation of the vmPFC modulates emotion-induced delay discounting remains unclear. We applied tDCS over the vmPFC in 20 healthy individuals during a delay discounting task following an emotional (positive, negative) or neutral induction. Our results showed that cathodal tDCS increased impulsivity after positive emotions in high impulsivity trials. For low impulsivity trials, anodal tDCS decreased impulsivity following neutral induction compared with emotional induction. Our findings demonstrate that the vmPFC integrates reward and emotion most prominently in situations of increased impulsivity, whereas when higher cognitive control is required the vmPFC appears to be less engaged, possibly due to recruitment of the dlPFC. Understanding how stimulation and emotion influence decision-making at the behavioural and neural levels holds promise to develop interventions to reduce impulsivity.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number18735
    Pages (from-to)1-9
    Number of pages9
    JournalScientific Reports
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 10 Dec 2019

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    Copyright the Author(s) 2019. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


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