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The effects of prefrontal cortex transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) on food craving and temporal discounting in women with frequent food cravings

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55-62
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2014

King's Authors


Bulimia nervosa, binge-eating disorder, and some forms of obesity are characterised by compulsive overeating that is often precipitated by food craving. Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) has been used to suppress food cravings, but there is insufficient evidence to support its application in clinical practice. Furthermore, the potential moderating role of impulsivity has not been considered. This study used a randomised within-subjects crossover design to examine whether a 20-minute session of sham-controlled bilateral tDCS to the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (anode right/cathode left) would transiently modify food cravings and temporal discounting (TD; a measure of choice impulsivity) in 17 healthy women with frequent food cravings. Whether the effects of tDCS on food craving were moderated by individual differences in TD behaviour was also explored. Participants were exposed to food and a film of people eating, and food cravings and TD were assessed before and after active and sham stimulation. Craving for sweet but not savoury foods was reduced following real tDCS. Participants that exhibited more reflective choice behaviour were more susceptible to the anti-craving effects of tDCS than those that displayed more impulsive choice behaviour. No differences were seen in TD or food consumption after real versus sham tDCS. These findings support the efficacy of tDCS in temporarily lowering food cravings and identify the moderating role of TD behaviour.

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