Electrified emotions: Modulatory effects of transcranial direct stimulation on negative emotional reactions to social exclusion

Paolo Riva, Leonor J. Romero Lauro, Alessandra Vergallito, C. Nathan DeWall, Brad J. Bushman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations

Abstract

Social exclusion, ostracism, and rejection can be emotionally painful because they thwart the need to belong. Building on studies suggesting that the right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (rVLPFC) is associated with regulation of negative emotions, the present experiment tests the hypothesis that decreasing the cortical excitability of the rVLPFC may increase negative emotional reactions to social exclusion. Specifically, we applied cathodal transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) over the rVLPFC and predicted an increment of negative emotional reactions to social exclusion. In Study 1, participants were either socially excluded or included, while cathodal tDCS or sham stimulation was applied over the rVLPFC. Cathodal stimulation of rVLPFC boosted the typical negative emotional reaction caused by social exclusion. No effects emerged from participants in the inclusion condition. To test the specificity of tDCS effects over rVLPFC, in Study 2, participants were socially excluded and received cathodal tDCS or sham stimulation over a control region (i.e., the right posterior parietal cortex). No effects of tDCS stimulation were found. Our results showed that the rVLPFC is specifically involved in emotion regulation and suggest that cathodal stimulation can increase negative emotional responses to social exclusion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)46-54
Number of pages9
JournalSocial Neuroscience
Volume10
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014, © 2014 Taylor & Francis.

Keywords

  • Cathodal stimulation
  • Hurt feelings
  • Negative emotions
  • Social exclusion
  • Social pain
  • Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Development
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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