Boosting affective control with bifrontal transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS): a proof-of-concept study in healthy individuals

Stefanie De Smet, Noga Cohen, Marie Anne Vanderhasselt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Affective control refers to the ability to regulate emotions and is considered a marker of mental health. Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), a non-invasive brain stimulation technique, holds promise to enhance affective control. In this between-subjects study in healthy individuals, we investigated the effects of bifrontal tDCS on core processes and higher-level markers of affective control. As such, we assessed direct tDCS effects on emotional interference during an affective control task and indirect effects on an instructed reappraisal task afterward. Results showed that the affective control task combined with active tDCS, compared to sham, resulted in enhanced cognitive emotion regulation. Specifically, participants in the active tDCS condition showed an increased propensity to use reappraisal and were more successful in doing so. Moreover, there was reduced vagally mediated heart rate variability indicative of attenuated emotion and self-regulation, in the sham, but not in the active condition. Surprisingly, there were no effects of tDCS on emotional interference during the affective control task, with Bayesian analyses showing extreme evidence against these effects. Nevertheless, there was a positive association between the emotional interference during the affective control task and participants’ reappraisal success afterward for the active, but not the sham tDCS condition. The study offers valuable insights to guide future work on combined tDCS with affective control tasks or training on the ability to regulate emotions.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number104401
JournalBehaviour Research and Therapy
StatePublished - Oct 2023


  • Affective control
  • Cognitive reappraisal
  • Dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC)
  • Emotion regulation
  • Heart rate variability (HRV)
  • Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS)

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology


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