Cathodal transcranial direct current stimulation of the extrastriate visual cortex modulates implicit anti-fat bias in male, but not female, participants

Valentina Cazzato, Stergios Makris, Cosimo Urgesi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Explicit negative attitudes toward obese individuals are well documented and seem to modulate the activity of perceptual areas, such as the Extrastriate Body Area (EBA) in the lateral occipito-temporal cortex, which is critical for body-shape perception. Nevertheless, it is still unclear whether EBA serves a role in implicit weight-stereotypical bias, thus reflecting stereotypical trait attribution on the basis of perceptual cues. Here, we used an Implicit Association Test (IAT) to investigate whether applying transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) over bilateral extrastriate visual cortex reduces pre-existing implicit weight stereotypical associations (i.e. “Bad” with Fat and “Good” with Slim, valence-IAT). Furthermore, an esthetic-IAT, which focused on body-concepts related to esthetic dimensions (i.e. “Ugly” and “Beauty”), was developed as a control condition. Anodal, cathodal, or sham tDCS (2 mA, 10 min) over the right and left lateral occipito-temporal (extrastriate visual) cortex was administered to 13 female and 12 male participants, before performing the IATs. Results showed that cathodal stimulation over the left extrastriate visual cortex reduced weight-bias for the evaluative dimensions (Bad vs. Good) as compared to sham stimulation over the same hemisphere. Furthermore, the effect was specific for the polarity and hemisphere of stimulation. Importantly, tDCS affected the responses only in male participants, who presented a reliable weight-bias during sham condition, but not in female participants, who did not show reliable weight-bias at sham condition. The present results suggest that negative attitudes toward obese individuals may reflect neural signals from the extrastriate visual cortex.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)92-104
Number of pages13
JournalNeuroscience
Volume359
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 17 2017

Keywords

  • anti-fat bias
  • extrastriate visual cortex
  • implicit association test
  • tDCS

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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