The effects of prefrontal vs. parietal cortex transcranial direct current stimulation on craving, inhibition, and measures of self-esteem

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While prefrontal cortex dysfunction has been implicated in high food cravings, other cortical regions, like the parietal cortex, are potentially also involved in regulating craving. This study explored the effects of stimulating the inferior parietal lobule (IPL) and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) on food craving state and trait. Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) was administered at 1.5 mA for 5 consecutive days. Participants received 20 min of IPL, DLPFC, or sham stimulation (SHAM) each day which consisted of two rounds of 10-min stimulation, divided by a 10-min mindfulness task break. In addition, we studied inhibition and subjective psychological aspects like body image and self-esteem state and trait. To decompose immediate and cumulative effects, we measured the following on days 1 and 5: inhibition through the Go/No-go task; and food craving, self-esteem, and body appreciation through a battery of questionnaires. We found that false alarm errors decreased in the participants receiving active stimulation in the DLPFC (DLPFC-group). In contrast, false alarm errors increased in participants receiving active stimulation in the IPL (IPL-group). At the same time, no change was found in the participants receiving SHAM (SHAM-group). There was a trending reduction in craving trait in all groups. Momentary craving was decreased in the DLPFC-group and increased in IPL-group, yet a statistical difference was not reached. According to time and baseline, self-esteem and body perception improved in the IPL-group. Furthermore, self-esteem trait significantly improved over time in the DLPFC-group and IPL-group. These preliminary results indicate that tDCS modulates inhibition in frontoparietal areas with opposite effects, enhancing it in DLPFC and impairing it in IPL. Moreover, craving is moderately linked to inhibition, self-esteem, and body appreciation which seem not to be affected by neuromodulation but may rely instead on broader regions as more complex constructs. Finally, the fractionated protocol can effectively influence inhibition with milder effects on other constructs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number998875
JournalFrontiers in Neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - Oct 31 2022


  • body appreciation
  • craving
  • dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC)
  • inferior parietal lobule (IPL)
  • inhibition
  • self-esteem
  • transcranial direct-current stimulation (tDCS)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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