Research ArticleNEUROSCIENCE

Brain stimulation reveals crucial role of overcoming self-centeredness in self-control

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Science Advances  19 Oct 2016:
Vol. 2, no. 10, e1600992
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1600992

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Neurobiological models of self-control predominantly focus on the role of prefrontal brain mechanisms involved in emotion regulation and impulse control. We provide evidence for an entirely different neural mechanism that promotes self-control by overcoming bias for the present self, a mechanism previously thought to be mainly important for interpersonal decision-making. In two separate studies, we show that disruptive transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) of the temporo-parietal junction—a brain region involved in overcoming one’s self-centered perspective—increases the discounting of delayed and prosocial rewards. This effect of TMS on temporal and social discounting is accompanied by deficits in perspective-taking and does not reflect altered spatial reorienting and number recognition. Our findings substantiate a fundamental commonality between the domains of self-control and social decision-making and highlight a novel aspect of the neurocognitive processes involved in self-control.

  • Temporal discounting
  • social discounting
  • altruism
  • egocentricity bias
  • present bias
  • theta-burst stimulation

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