Personal Impulsivity Mediates the Effects of Neuromodulation in Economic Intertemporal Choices: A Pilot Study

Barbara Colombo, Paola Iannello, Gugliemo Puglisi, Alessandro Antonietti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The involvement of the prefrontal cortex in intertemporal choices has been long recognized. Using neurostimulation techniques, recent studies have indicated that the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) influences performance on intertemporal choice tasks. The present pilot study is aimed to explore further the DLPFC’s role in intertemporal choices by assessing the influence of individual levels of impulsivity on modulating the stimulation’s effects. Thirteen subjects participated in a within-subjects experiment. During the three sessions, participants received 20 minutes of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS; either sham, anodal, or cathodal) and were administered the Intertemporal Choice Task. Then, they completed the Barratt Impulsivity Scale and the Dickman Impulsivity Inventory. Using a repeated-measure generalized linear model, we explored the effects of stimulation on intertemporal choice (either immediate or delayed reward) on impulsive responses, defined as quick answers. The individual level of impulsivity was included in the model as a covariate. According to the results, participants made a greater number of impulsive choices favoring immediate rewards after cathodal stimulation of the left DLPFC. Additionally, a moderating role of individual impulsivity emerged. This study provides support for the involvement of the left DLPFC in intertemporal choices. We contend that the role of individual differences should be further explored to obtain a better understanding of intertemporal choice behavior.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)123-137
Number of pages15
JournalStudia Psychologica
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • decision-making
  • impulsivity
  • intertemporal choices


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