High-definition tDCS alters impulsivity in a baseline-dependent manner

Bo Shen, Yunlu Yin, Jiashu Wang, Xiaolin Zhou, Samuel McClure, Jian Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


In intertemporal choice (ITC), people discount future rewards in proportion to the time delay until reward receipt. Despite recent non-invasive brain stimulation studies suggesting a general causal link between dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC) activity and ITC impulsivity, results regarding the functional specificity of dlPFC are mixed. We used high-definition transcranial direct current stimulation (HD-tDCS) to map changes in causal impulsivity through bi-directional modulation of left and right dlPFC during ITC. Model-free and model-based analyses demonstrated that anodal and cathodal stimulation of left dlPFC, but not right dlPFC, decreased and increased impulsivity, respectively. Critically, an individual differences analysis revealed that modulation of impulsivity was contingent on participants' baseline impulsivity. Overall, our results might reconcile the discrepancies in the existing literature and suggest a baseline-dependent role for left dlPFC during ITC.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)343-352
Number of pages10
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016


  • Delay discounting
  • Dorsolateral prefrontal cortex
  • HD-tDCS
  • Intertemporal choice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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