Prefrontal cortex transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) temporarily reduces food cravings and increases the self-reported ability to resist food in adults with frequent food craving

Appetite. 2011 Jun;56(3):741-6. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2011.02.013. Epub 2011 Feb 23.


This study examined whether a 20-min session of prefrontal transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) (anode over the right prefrontal cortex and cathode over the left prefrontal cortex) would reduce food cravings and increase the self-reported ability to resist foods in 19 healthy individuals who reported frequent food cravings. Participants viewed computerized images of food and used computerized visual analogue scales to rate food cravings and inability to resist foods before, during, and after receiving either real or sham tDCS. This study employed a randomized within-subject crossover design; participants received both real and sham tDCS and were blind to the condition. Food cravings ratings were reduced in both conditions, however, the percent change in cravings ratings from pre- to post-stimulation was significantly greater for real stimulation than for sham. The percent change in inability to resist food from pre- to post-stimulation also showed a greater decrease in the real condition than for sham. Post hoc analyses suggest that active prefrontal tDCS acutely and significantly decreased food cravings ratings for sweet foods and carbohydrates more so than sham tDCS. No significant differences were seen in the amount of food ingested between real and sham tDCS. These findings in healthy subjects indicate that tDCS is able to temporarily reduce food cravings and improve the self-reported ability to resist foods.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology*
  • Female
  • Food Preferences / physiology*
  • Food*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Reference Values
  • South Carolina
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation / methods*
  • Young Adult