Low-frequency brain stimulation to the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex increases the negative impact of social exclusion among those high in personal distress

Bernadette Mary Fitzgibbon, Melissa Kirkovski, Neil Wayne Bailey, Richard Hilton Thomson, Naomi Eisenberger, Peter Gregory Enticott, Paul Fitzgerald

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


The dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) is thought to play a key role in the cognitive control of emotion and has therefore, unsurprisingly, been implicated in the regulation of physical pain perception. This brain region may also influence the experience of social pain, which has been shown to activate similar neural networks as seen in response to physical pain. Here, we applied sham or active low-frequency (1 Hz) repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) to the left DLPFC, previously shown to exert bilateral effects in pain perception, in healthy participants. Following stimulation, participants played the “Cyberball Task”; an online ball-tossing game in which the subject participant is included or excluded. Compared to sham, rTMS did not modulate behavioural response to social exclusion. However, within the active rTMS group only, greater trait personal distress was related to enhanced negative outcomes to social exclusion. These results add further support to the notion that the effect of brain stimulation is not homogenous across individuals, and indicates the need to consider baseline individual differences when assessing response to brain stimulation. This seems particularly relevant in social neuroscience investigations, where trait factors may have a meaningful effect.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)237 - 241
Number of pages5
JournalSocial Neuroscience
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • dorsolateral prefrontal cortex
  • personal distress
  • repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation
  • social exclusion
  • Social pain

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