King's College London

Research portal

tDCS increases anxiety reactivity to intentional worry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Patrick J.f. Clarke, Brodie F. Sprlyan, Colette R. Hirsch, Frances Meeten, Lies Notebaert

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)34-39
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of psychiatric research
Early online date12 Oct 2019
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2020

King's Authors


While considerable experimental research has examined the impact of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) on a range of cognitive processes associated with emotional pathology, the impact of tDCS on worry has been comparatively neglected. Given that anxiety pathology is characterised by motivated engagement in worry, and that frontal tDCS has the capacity to enhance goal-oriented cognition, it is important to examine whether tDCS would increase or ameliorate the cognitive and emotional effects of worry. In the current study we examined how tDCS influenced the anxiety response to worry, and the frequency of negative intrusive thoughts. We additionally examined whether stimulation delivered in isolation, or in combination with a mindful-focus task would augment the effects of tDCS. Ninety-seven (75 female) healthy participants received either active or sham anodal tDCS to the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, delivered either in isolation or concurrently with a mindful task (four conditions). The frequency of negative thought intrusions was assessed before and after a period of instructed worry, and state anxiety was assessed across the study. Active tDCS was associated with significantly greater elevation in anxiety in response to the worry induction. No effects were observed on the frequency of negative thought intrusions, and the combined delivery of tDCS with the concurrent mindful task did not alter the pattern of observed effects. While inviting replication in a high anxious sample, the present results highlight the possibility that tDCS may interact with motivated engagement in negative patterns of cognition, such as worry, to produce greater emotional reactivity.

View graph of relations

© 2018 King's College London | Strand | London WC2R 2LS | England | United Kingdom | Tel +44 (0)20 7836 5454