Academic journal article Journal of the Indian Academy of Applied Psychology

Disengaging Attention from Affective Stimuli: Evidence for Valence-Dependent Lateralization in Emotion Regulation

Academic journal article Journal of the Indian Academy of Applied Psychology

Disengaging Attention from Affective Stimuli: Evidence for Valence-Dependent Lateralization in Emotion Regulation

Article excerpt

Currently, the two dominant views on brain lateralization of emotion are the valence hypothesis (Silberman & Weingartner, 1986) and the approach-withdrawal hypothesis (Davidson, 1992). Both assert that the left hemisphere is dominant for positive/approach emotions while the right hemisphere is dominant for negative/withdrawal emotions, respectively. This assertion is supported by a large body of neuropsychological research, including lesion studies (e.g. Gainotti, 1969; Goldstein, 1939), WADA test studies (e.g. Lee, Loring, Meader & Brooks, 1990; Terzian, 1964), and EEG studies (e.g. Hecht, 2010; Heller, 1993; Moratti, Fernandez, & Rubio, 2012). However, the specific nature that this dominance takes is not clear. Results across studies using the same methodology are not consistent. Gainotti (1989) reviewed a number of studies on left versus right brain damaged patients that did not find a clear difference in lateralization of emotion. Similarly, several researches have failed to demonstrate valence lateralization of emotion in EEG studies (Collet & Duclaux, 1987; Gotlib, Ranganath, Rosenfeld, 1998; Reid, Duke, & Allen, 1998). A meta-analysis by Wager, Phan, Liberzon, & Taylor (2003) found limited support for a simple valence-based lateralization of emotion in the brain and concluded that lateralization of emotion in the brain is more complex and region-specific than early theories proposed.

Davidson (1992) proposed that the reason for differing results in various studies is that anterior cerebral asymmetry predisposes positive versus negative responses only in the presence of a specific emotion elicitor. This elicitor was not always present or consistent in the prior studies and thus results differed. Moreover, studies show that, in normal individuals, baseline anterior asymmetry in the hemispheres predicts emotional reactions to a specific emotional challenge but, is unrelated to general emotional state (Davidson & Fox, 1989; Tomarken, Davidson, & Henriques, 1990). This suggests that the frontal left and right hemispheres play a role in regulating emotion in response to affective stimuli.

This idea would be in line with neuro psychological theories of emotion regulation that generally concurs in positing a cortico-limbic circuit wherein regions of the prefrontal cortex exert inhibitory control on the limbic structures responsible for emotions (e.g. Banks, Eddy, Angstadt, Nathan, & Phan, 2007; Phan et al,, 2005). However, there is a debate about the hemisphere to which inhibitory control is attributed. Some studies implicate areas of the left prefrontal cortex in the regulation of negative emotions (e.g. Jackson et al., 2003; Mak, Hu, Zhang, Xiao & Lee, 2009). Others have found greater activity of right frontal areas associated with regulation of negative emotions (e.g. Beauregard, Paquette, Lévesque, 2006; Leyman, De Raedt, R., Vanderhasselt, & Baeken, 2009). Ochsner, Ray, Robertson, Cooper, Chopra, Gabrieli, and Gross (2004) found right hemisphere structures to be dominant for the down regulation of emotions and left hemisphere structures to be dominant for up regulation of emotions. Apart from the contradictory results obtained, studies on emotion regulation usually only test the regulation of negative emotions, using negative affective stimuli. Research on the regulation or inhibition of positive emotions is scarce.

Another gap in the existing literature is the tendency, when conceptualizing and operationally defining emotion regulation, to focus on emotion regulation strategies rather than processes. Furthermore, among the various strategies known, most researches are carried out on distraction and cognitive reappraisal, with comparisons between the two being most common. However, for neuropsychological studies, it is more important to break emotion regulation down into its basic component processes, so as to identify the brain areas or brain structures involved. …

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