Academic journal article Cognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience

Functional Overlap of Top-Down Emotion Regulation and Generation: An fMRI Study Identifying Common Neural Substrates between Cognitive Reappraisal and Cognitively Generated Emotions

Academic journal article Cognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience

Functional Overlap of Top-Down Emotion Regulation and Generation: An fMRI Study Identifying Common Neural Substrates between Cognitive Reappraisal and Cognitively Generated Emotions

Article excerpt

Published online: 16 January 2014

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2014

Abstract One factor that influences the success of emotion regulation is the manner in which the regulated emotion was generated. Recent research has suggested that reappraisal, a topdown emotion regulation strategy, is more effective in decreasing self-reported negative affect when emotions were generated from the top-down, versus the bottom-up. On the basis of a process overlap framework, we hypothesized that the neural regions active during reappraisal would overlap more with emotions that were generated from the top-down, rather than from the bottom-up. In addition, we hypothesized that increased neural overlap between reappraisal and the history effects of top-down emotion generation would be associated with increased reappraisal success. The results of several analyses suggested that reappraisal and emotions that were generated from the top-down share a core network of prefrontal, temporal, and cingulate regions. This overlap is specific; no such overlap was observed between reappraisal and emotions that were generated in a bottom-up fashion. This network consists of regions previously implicated in linguistic processing, cognitive control, and self-relevant appraisals, which are processes thought to be crucial to both reappraisal and topdown emotion generation. Furthermore, individuals with high reappraisal success demonstrated greater neural overlap between reappraisal and the history of top-down emotion generation than did those with low reappraisal success. The overlap of these key regions, reflecting overlapping processes, provides an initial insight into the mechanism by which generation history may facilitate emotion regulation.

Keywords Emotion regulation . Emotion generation . Cognitive reappraisal . Transfer appropriate processing . Medial prefrontal cortex . Face . fMRI . History effects

Functionalist approaches to the study of emotion emphasize that even negative emotions can promote adaptive responding. In situations that require rapid, automatic responses, such as a threat in one's environment, emotional responses can facilitate useful behavior (Öhman, Flykt, & Lundqvist, 2000). However, there are times when our emotional responses do not lead to optimal responding, such as when emotion distracts us from an important task, or when the expression of an emotion is socially inappropriate. In these cases, the ability to change or regulate our emotions can be a crucially adaptive skill.

One commonly used emotion regulation strategy is reappraisal, which has been shown to be an effectiveway to diminish negative emotion (Gross, 1998b; Jackson, Malmstadt, Larson, & Davidson, 2000; Kalisch, 2009; McRae et al., 2010; Ochsner, Silvers, & Buhle, 2012). Reappraisal involves reinterpreting the emotional meaning of potentially emotional stimuli or events in a way that changes the emotional response (Gross, 1998b; Lazarus&Alfert, 1964). Experimental studies of reappraisal have demonstrated that reappraisal can successfully decrease several measures of negative emotion (Eippert et al., 2007; Gross, 1998a, 2002; McRae et al., 2010; McRae, Misra, Prasad, Pereira,&Gross, 2011; Ray,McRae, Ochsner,&Gross, 2010), and observational studies have indicated that reappraisal use is associated with adaptive outcomes (Gross & John, 2003; Nezlek & Kuppens, 2008). Furthermore, the processes underlying reappraisal are thought to be similar to those targeted by cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT; Beck & Dozois, 2011). Given the effectiveness of reappraisal and its potential as an intervention, it is important to understand the circumstances under which reappraisal is the most and least effective.

One potential variable that might influence reappraisal success is the history of how the emotion that is being regulated by reappraisal was generated. To date, one study has demonstrated that reappraisal is more effective in decreasing negative affect when emotion is generated in a top-down, versus a bottom-up, manner (McRae et al. …

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