Inhibition of the right dlPFC by theta burst stimulation does not alter sustainable decision-making

Langenbach, Benedikt P.; Baumgartner, Thomas; Cazzoli, Dario; Müri, René M.; Knoch, Daria (2019). Inhibition of the right dlPFC by theta burst stimulation does not alter sustainable decision-making. Scientific reports, 9(1), p. 13852. Springer Nature 10.1038/s41598-019-50322-w

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Intergenerational sustainability is probably humankind’s most pressing challenge, exacerbated by the fact that the present generation has to incur costs in order to benefit future generations. However, people often fail to restrict their consumption, despite reporting strong pro-environmental attitudes. Recent theorising sees self-control processes as key component of sustainable decision-making and correlational studies support this view, yet causal evidence is lacking. Using TMS, we here disrupted an area known to be involved in self-control processes, the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC), to provide causal evidence as to whether diminished self-control leads to less intergenerational sustainability. Participants then engaged in a behavioural economic paradigm to measure sustainable decision-making towards the next generation. This adequately powered study could not find an effect of inhibiting the right dlPFC on intergenerational sustainability. This result holds when controlling for a number of relevant covariates like gender, trait self-control, pro-environmental attitudes, or cortical thickness at the stimulation site. We seek to explain this result methodologically and theoretically, and speculate about other brain areas that could be more strongly related to intergenerational sustainability, e.g. the mentalising network.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


10 Strategic Research Centers > ARTORG Center for Biomedical Engineering Research > ARTORG Center - Gerontechnology and Rehabilitation
04 Faculty of Medicine > Department of Head Organs and Neurology (DKNS) > Clinic of Neurology
07 Faculty of Human Sciences > Institute of Psychology > Social Neuroscience and Social Psychology

Graduate School:

Swiss Graduate School for Cognition, Learning and Memory (SGS-CLM)

UniBE Contributor:

Langenbach, Benedikt Peter, Baumgartner, Thomas, Cazzoli, Dario, Müri, René Martin, Knoch, Daria


600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health
300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology
300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 330 Economics
300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 360 Social problems & social services




Springer Nature




Benedikt Peter Langenbach

Date Deposited:

05 Nov 2019 16:44

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:31

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:





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