Brain switches utilitarian behavior: Does gender make the difference?

Manuela Fumagalli, Maurizio Vergari, Patrizio Pasqualetti, Sara Marceglia, Francesca Mameli, Roberta Ferrucci, Simona Mrakic-Sposta, Stefano Zago, Giuseppe Sartori, Gabriella Pravettoni, Sergio Barbieri, Stefano Cappa, Alberto Priori

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Decision often implies a utilitarian choice based on personal gain, even at the expense of damaging others. Despite the social implications of utilitarian behavior, its neurophysiological bases remain largely unknown. To assess how the human brain controls utilitarian behavior, we delivered transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) over the ventral prefrontal cortex (VPC) and over the occipital cortex (OC) in 78 healthy subjects. Utilitarian judgment was assessed with the moral judgment task before and after tDCS. At baseline, females provided fewer utilitarian answers than males for personal moral dilemmas (p = .007). In males, VPC-tDCS failed to induce changes and in both genders OC-tDCS left utilitarian judgments unchanged. In females, cathodal VPC-tDCS tended to decrease whereas anodal VPC-tDCS significantly increased utilitarian responses (p = .005). In males and females, reaction times for utilitarian responses significantly decreased after cathodal (p

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere8865
JournalPLoS One
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 25 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Medicine(all)


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