tDCS effect on prosocial behavior: A meta-analytic review

Bo Yuan, Serenella Tolomeo, Chunliang Yang, Ying Wang, Rongjun Yu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Previous studies have shown that transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) could potentially promote prosocial behaviors. However, results from randomized controlled trials are inconsistent. The current meta-analysis aimed to assess the effects of anodal and cathodal tDCS using single-session protocols on prosocial behaviors in healthy young adults and explore potential moderators of these effects. The results showed that compared with sham stimulation, anodal (excitatory) stimulation significantly increased (g = 0.27, 95% CI [0.11, 0.43], Z = 3.30, P = 0.001) and cathodal (inhibitory) stimulation significantly decreased prosocial behaviors (g = -0.19, 95% CI [-0.39, -0.01], Z = -1.95, P = 0.051) using a multilevel meta-analytic model. These effects were not significantly modulated by stimulation parameters (e.g. duration, intensity and site) and types of prosocial behavior. The risk of publication bias for the included effects was minimal, and no selective reporting (e.g. P-hacking) was found in the P-curve analysis. This meta-analysis showed that both anodal and cathodal tDCS have small but significant effects on prosocial behaviors. The current study provides evidence that prosocial behaviors are linked to the activity of the 'social brain'. Future studies are encouraged to further explore whether tDCS could effectively treat social dysfunctions in psychiatry disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)26-42
Number of pages17
JournalSocial Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience
Issue number1
Early online date19 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

User-Defined Keywords

  • meta-analysis
  • prosocial behavior
  • stimulation parameters
  • transcranial direct current stimulation


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