Transcranial magnetic stimulation of the left middle frontal gyrus modulates the information people communicate in different social contexts

Beatriz Martín-Luengo*, Alicia Nunez Vorobiova, Matteo Feurra, Andriy Myachykov, Yury Shtyrov

*Corresponding author for this work

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Neocortical structures of the left frontal lobe, middle frontal gyrus (MFG) in particular, have been suggested to be linked to the processing of punishing and unpleasant outcomes in decision tasks. To assess the role of left MFG (lMFG) in communicative decisions, we used repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) to inhibit its function during communicational exchanges under two types of social contexts: formal and informal. Three groups of participants received an offline 1-Hz inhibitory rTMS of lMFG, right MFG as an active control site, or lMFG sham/placebo TMS as a passive control condition. Participants’ task included answering difficult general-knowledge questions, rating their confidence in their answers’ correctness, and, finally, deciding if they would report or withhold these answers in formal and informal social contexts. There were significantly more reported than withheld answers in the informal context in all groups. The formal context showed no differences between reported and withheld answers in both control conditions, while, crucially, real rTMS of lMFG produced a different pattern, with more withheld than reported answers. Thus, lMFG inhibition seems to result in more rational decisions made only in formal communication contexts, where there is a perception of a certain pressure or possible negative outcomes. In informal social contexts and in the absence of negative consequences the pattern of answers did not change, regardless of the reporting strategy or the TMS protocol used. These results suggest selective context-dependent involvement of the lMFG in decision-making processes during communicational exchanges taking place under social pressure.
Original languageEnglish
Article number9995
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jun 2023

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