News Release

Prefrontal cortex stimulation reduces aggressive intentions

'Gold standard' study design reveals influence of prefrontal cortex on intent to commit physical or sexual assault

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Society for Neuroscience

Aggressive Intent

image: Group means for aggressive intent. view more 

Credit: Choy et al., <i>JNeurosci</i> (2018)

Increasing prefrontal cortex activity with brain stimulation reduces aggressive intent in human adults, according to new research published in JNeurosci. This finding extends previous correlational aggression research by demonstrating the influence of the prefrontal cortex on the intent to commit an aggressive act in a "gold standard" double-blind, placebo-controlled, stratified, parallel-group, randomized trial.

Olivia Choy and colleagues randomly assigned adults to a treatment group that received transcranial direct current stimulation of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex or a control group that received a placebo intervention. Participants in the treatment group showed less intention to commit hypothetical physical or sexual assault and perceived these acts as morally wrong more so than individuals in the control group. Enhanced moral judgement partly accounted for reduced intent to commit sexual, but not physical, assault.

These results suggest that using brain stimulation to reduce an individual's intention to commit an aggressive act may be a first step towards creating behavior change in individuals susceptible to violent behavior. Further research is needed to determine whether violence could actually be prevented by prefrontal upregulation.


Article: Stimulation of the Prefrontal Cortex Reduces Intentions to Commit Aggression: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Stratified, Parallel-Group Trial
Corresponding author: Olivia Choy (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore),

About JNeurosci

JNeurosci, the Society for Neuroscience's first journal, was launched in 1981 as a means to communicate the findings of the highest quality neuroscience research to the growing field. Today, the journal remains committed to publishing cutting-edge neuroscience that will have an immediate and lasting scientific impact, while responding to authors' changing publishing needs, representing breadth of the field and diversity in authorship.

About The Society for Neuroscience

The Society for Neuroscience is the world's largest organization of scientists and physicians devoted to understanding the brain and nervous system. The nonprofit organization, founded in 1969, now has nearly 37,000 members in more than 90 countries and over 130 chapters worldwide.

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