Lateral prefrontal cortex and self-control in intertemporal choice

Article metrics


Disruption of function of left, but not right, lateral prefrontal cortex (LPFC) with low-frequency repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) increased choices of immediate rewards over larger delayed rewards. rTMS did not change choices involving only delayed rewards or valuation judgments of immediate and delayed rewards, providing causal evidence for a neural lateral-prefrontal cortex–based self-control mechanism in intertemporal choice.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

Figure 1: Proportion of patient choices (later-larger) as a function of the relative difference between magnitude of sooner-smaller and later-larger.


  1. 1

    Green, L. & Myerson, J. Psychol. Bull. 130, 769–792 (2004).

  2. 2

    Kable, J.W. & Glimcher, P.W. Nat. Neurosci. 10, 1625–1633 (2007).

  3. 3

    McClure, S.M., Laibson, D.I., Loewenstein, G. & Cohen, J.D. Science 306, 503–507 (2004).

  4. 4

    Ballard, K. & Knutson, B. Neuroimage 45, 143–150 (2009).

  5. 5

    Luo, S., Ainslie, G., Giragosian, L. & Monterosso, J.R. J. Neurosci. 29, 14820–14827 (2009).

  6. 6

    Hare, T.A., Camerer, C.F. & Rangel, A. Science 324, 646–648 (2009).

  7. 7

    Knoch, D. & Fehr, E. Ann. NY Acad. Sci. 1104, 123–134 (2007).

  8. 8

    Miller, E.K. & Cohen, J.D. Annu. Rev. Neurosci. 24, 167–202 (2001).

  9. 9

    Eisenegger, C., Treyer, V., Fehr, E. & Knoch, D. Neuroimage 42, 379–384 (2008).

Download references


We thank P. Glimcher, A. Rangel and T. Hare for valuable comments on an earlier draft of this manuscript. This research was supported by Swiss National Science Foundation fellowships (PA001–15327 and PBZH1–110268) to B.F., US National Science Foundation grants (SES–0720932 and SES–0922743) to B.F. and E.U.W. and a Swiss National Science Foundation grant (PP00P1–123381) to D.K.

Author information

All of the authors designed the experiment and edited the manuscript. B.F. and A.R.K. conducted and analyzed the pilot studies. B.F. and D.K. collected the data. B.F., D.K., E.J.J. and E.U.W. analyzed the data and B.F., E.U.W. and E.J.J. prepared the manuscript.

Correspondence to Bernd Figner.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Text and Figures

Supplementary Figures 1–7, Supplementary Table 1, Supplementary Methods, Supplementary Data Analysis, and Supplementary Text (PDF 1350 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Figner, B., Knoch, D., Johnson, E. et al. Lateral prefrontal cortex and self-control in intertemporal choice. Nat Neurosci 13, 538–539 (2010) doi:10.1038/nn.2516

Download citation

Further reading