Response inhibition is defined as the capacity to adequately withdraw pre-planned responses. It has been shown that individuals with deficits in inhibiting pre-planned responses tend to display more aggressive behaviour. The prefrontal cortex is involved in both, response inhibition and aggression. While response inhibition is mostly associated with predominantly right prefrontal activity, the neural components underlying aggression seem to be left-lateralized. These differences in hemispheric dominance are conceptualized in cortical asymmetry theories on motivational direction, which assign avoidance motivation (relevant to inhibit responses) to the right and approach motivation (relevant for aggressive actions) to the left prefrontal cortex. The current study aimed to directly address the inverse relationship between response inhibition and aggression by assessing them within one experiment. Sixty-nine healthy participants underwent bilateral transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) to the inferior frontal cortex. In one group we induced right-hemispheric fronto-cortical dominance by means of a combined right prefrontal anodal and left prefrontal cathodal tDCS montage. In a second group we induced left-hemispheric fronto-cortical dominance by means of a combined left prefrontal anodal and right prefrontal cathodal tDCS montage. A control group received sham stimulation. Response inhibition was assessed with a go/no-go task (GNGT) and aggression with the Taylor Aggression Paradigm (TAP). We revealed that participants with poorer performance in the GNGT displayed more aggression during the TAP. No effects of bilateral prefrontal tDCS on either response inhibition or aggression were observed. This is at odds with previous brain stimulation studies applying unilateral protocols. Our results failed to provide evidence in support of the prefrontal cortical asymmetry model in the domain of response inhibition and aggression. The absence of tDCS effects might also indicate that the methodological approach of shifting cortical asymmetry by means of bilateral tDCS protocols has failed.
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- DIRECT-CURRENT STIMULATION, BRAIN ACTIVITY, PROACTIVE AGGRESSION, ACTION CANCELLATION, PREFRONTAL CORTEX, AFFECTIVE VALENCE, ACTION RESTRAINT, SEX-DIFFERENCES, STOP-SIGNAL, ANGER