Impact of bifrontal transcranial Direct Current Stimulation on decision-making and stress reactivity. A pilot study.

Publication Type:

Journal Article


J Psychiatr Res, Volume 135, p.15-19 (2021)


Double-Blind Method, Humans, Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System, Pilot Projects, Pituitary-Adrenal System, Prefrontal Cortex, Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation


<p>Stress is an adaptive response with repercussions on the human health. The dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) is thought to be involved in stress regulation by contributing to limit its biological and behavioral pejorative consequences. Here, to investigate the contribution of the DLPFC in stress response, we applied transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) over the DLPFC during acute stress exposure in healthy participants. We hypothesized that active tDCS compared to sham would impact top-down control of the DLPFC on goal-directed behavior and hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis activity. In a double-blind sham-controlled study, 30 healthy subjects were randomly allocated to receive either active (2 mA, n = 15) or sham tDCS (n = 15) with the anode over the left DLPFC and the cathode over the right DLFPC. During the 30-min stimulation period, participants faced an experimental acute stress paradigm. Changes in goal-directed behavior were measured with a decision-making task. HPA axis reactivity was assessed by repeated measures of salivary cortisol. Acute stress decreased appetite for immediate reward in the sham group (mean - 4.40%; p = 0.017) whereas no significant effect of stress was observed in the active group. During stress exposure, we observed a significant larger elevation of salivary cortisol (p = 0.045; Cohen's d = 0.431) in the sham tDCS group (+179.8%; Standard error of the mean (SEM) = 20.6) than in the active group (+138.5%; SEM = 14.2). Stimulating the DLPFC using bifrontal tDCS may prevent stress-induced acute effects on both biological and behavioral outcomes.</p>

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