Does transcranial direct current stimulation to the prefrontal cortex affect social behavior? A meta-analysis

Sarah Beth Bell, Nathan DeWall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


This meta-analysis (k = 48, N = 2196) examined the effect of transcranial direct current brain stimulation (tDCS) applied to the prefrontal cortex on a variety of social behaviors, including aggression, overeating, impulsivity, bias, honesty, and risk-taking. tDCS showed an overall significant effect on reducing undesirable behaviors, with an average effect size of d = -0.20. tDCS was most effective at reducing risk-taking behavior, bias, and overeating. tDCS did not affect aggression, impulsivity, or dishonesty. We examined moderators such as brain region of interest, online vs offline stimulation, within- vs between-subjects designs, dose, and duration, but none showed significant interactions. We also tested for potential publication bias using two different tools, which indicated signs of publication bias in the literature. After correcting for potential publication bias, the effect of tDCS was still significant, but the size was reduced (d = -0.10). These findings suggest the presence of tDCS studies with null findings outside of the published literature. Taken together, these results suggest that although tDCS can reduce undesirable behaviors, researchers should consider the types of behaviors they measure and use strategies to ensure sufficient power to detect a possible effect of tDCS on social behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)899-906
Number of pages8
JournalSocial Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 11 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2018.


  • Brain stimulation
  • Meta-analysis
  • Prefrontal cortex
  • Social behavior
  • Social psychology
  • Transcranial direct current stimulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


Dive into the research topics of 'Does transcranial direct current stimulation to the prefrontal cortex affect social behavior? A meta-analysis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this