Although adolescents’ emotional lives are thought to be more turbulent than those of adults, it is unknown whether this difference is attributable to developmental changes in emotional reactivity or emotion regulation. Study 1 addressed this question by presenting healthy individuals aged 10–23 with negative and neutral pictures and asking them to respond naturally or use cognitive reappraisal to down-regulate their responses on a trial-by-trial basis. Results indicated that age exerted both linear and quadratic effects on regulation success but was unrelated to emotional reactivity. Study 2 replicated and extended these findings using a different reappraisal task and further showed that situational (i.e., social vs. nonsocial stimuli) and dispositional (i.e., level of rejection sensitivity) social factors interacted with age to predict regulation success: young adolescents were less successful at regulating responses to social than to nonsocial stimuli, particularly if the adolescents were high in rejection sensitivity. Taken together, these results have important implications for the inclusion of emotion regulation in models of emotional and cognitive development.
emotion regulation; adolescent development; rejection sensitivity; reappraisal
Recent developments in the study of cognitive emotion regulation illustrate how functional imaging is extending behavioral analyses. Imaging studies have contributed to the development of a multi-level model of emotion regulation that describes the interactions between neural systems implicated in emotion generation and those implicated in emotional control. In this article, we review imaging studies of one type of cognitive emotion regulation, namely reappraisal. We show how imaging studies have contributed to the construction of this model, illustrate the interplay of psychological theory and neuroscience data in its development, and describe how this model can be used as the basis for future basic and translational research.
emotion; emotion regulation; cognitive control; amygdala; prefrontal cortex
The psychometric properties of 4 paradigms adapted from the social neuroscience literature were evaluated to determine their suitability for use in clinical trials of schizophrenia. This 2-site study (University of California, Los Angeles and University of North Carolina) included 173 clinically stable schizophrenia outpatients and 88 healthy controls. The social cognition battery was administered twice to the schizophrenia group (baseline, 4-week retest) and once to the control group. The 4 paradigms included 2 that assess perception of nonverbal social and action cues (basic biological motion and emotion in biological motion) and 2 that involve higher level inferences about self and others’ mental states (self-referential memory and empathic accuracy). Each paradigm was evaluated on (1) patient vs healthy control group differences, (2) test-retest reliability, (3) utility as a repeated measure, and (4) tolerability. Of the 4 paradigms, empathic accuracy demonstrated the strongest characteristics, including large between-group differences, adequate test-retest reliability (.72), negligible practice effects, and good tolerability ratings. The other paradigms showed weaker psychometric characteristics in their current forms. These findings highlight challenges in adapting social neuroscience paradigms for use in clinical trials.
social neuroscience; schizophrenia; psychometrics
It is unknown whether measures adapted from social neuroscience linked to specific neural systems will demonstrate relationships to external variables. Four paradigms adapted from social neuroscience were administered to 173 clinically stable outpatients with schizophrenia to determine their relationships to functionally meaningful variables and to investigate their incremental validity beyond standard measures of social and nonsocial cognition. The 4 paradigms included 2 that assess perception of nonverbal social and action cues (basic biological motion and emotion in biological motion) and 2 that involve higher level inferences about self and others’ mental states (self- referential memory and empathic accuracy). Overall, social neuroscience paradigms showed significant relationships to functional capacity but weak relationships to community functioning; the paradigms also showed weak correlations to clinical symptoms. Evidence for incremental validity beyond standard measures of social and nonsocial cognition was mixed with additional predictive power shown for functional capacity but not community functioning. Of the newly adapted paradigms, the empathic accuracy task had the broadest external validity. These results underscore the difficulty of translating developments from neuroscience into clinically useful tasks with functional significance.
schizophrenia; social cognition; social neuroscience; functional outcome
Social cognitive impairment is prominent in schizophrenia, and it is closely related to functional outcome. Partly for these reasons, it has rapidly become a target for both training and psychopharmacological interventions. However, there is a paucity of reliable and valid social cognitive endpoints that can be used to evaluate treatment response in clinical trials. Also, clinical studies in schizophrenia have benefited rather little from the surge of activity and knowledge in nonclinical social neuroscience. The National Institute of Mental Health-sponsored study, “Social Cognition and Functioning in Schizophrenia” (SCAF), attempted to address this translational challenge by selecting paradigms from social neuroscience that could be adapted for use in schizophrenia. The project also evaluated the psychometric properties and external validity of the tasks to determine their suitability for multisite clinical trials. This first article in the theme section presents the goals, conceptual background, and rationale for the SCAF project.
social neuroscience; social cognition; schizophrenia; clinical trials
Social evaluative threat (SET) is a potent stressor in humans linked to autonomic and endocrine responses, and multiple health problems. Neuroimaging has recently begun to elucidate the brain correlates of SET, but as yet little is known about the mediating cortical-brainstem pathways in humans. This paper replicates and extends findings in a companion paper (Wager et al., submitted) using an independent cohort of participants and different image acquisition parameters. Here, we focused specifically on relationships between the medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC), midbrain periaqueductal gray (PAG), and heart rate (HR). We applied multi-level path analysis to localize brain mediators of SET effects on HR and self-reported anxiety. HR responses were mediated by opposing signals in two distinct sub-regions of the MPFC—increases in rostral dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (rdACC) and deactivation in ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC). In addition, HR responses were mediated by PAG. Additional path analyses provided support for two cortical subcortical pathways: one linking vmPFC, PAG, and HR, and another linking rdACC, thalamus, and HR. PAG responses were linked with HR changes both before and during SET, whereas cortical regions showed stronger connectivity with HR during threat. Self-reported anxiety showed a partially overlapping, but weaker, pattern of mediators, including the vmPFC, dorsomedial PFC (dmPFC), and lateral frontal cortex, as well as substantial individual differences that were largely unexplained. Taken together, these data suggest pathways for the translation of social threats into both physiological and experiential responses, and provide targets for future research on the generation and regulation of emotion.
Distraction and reappraisal are two commonly used forms of cognitive emotion regulation. Functional neuroimaging studies have shown that each one depends upon interactions between prefrontal cortex, interpreted as implementing cognitive control, and limbic regions, interpreted as mediating emotional responses. However, no study has directly compared distraction with reappraisal, and it thus remains unclear whether they draw upon different neural mechanisms and have different emotional consequences. The present fMRI study compared distraction and reappraisal, and found both similarities and differences between the two forms of emotion regulation. Both resulted in decreased negative affect, decreased activation in the amygdala, and increased activation in prefrontal and cingulate regions. Relative to distraction, reappraisal led to greater decreases in negative affect, and greater increases in a network of regions associated with processing affective meaning (medial prefrontal and anterior temporal cortices). Relative to reappraisal, distraction led to greater decreases in amygdala activation, and greater increases in activation in prefrontal and parietal regions. Taken together, these data suggest that distraction and reappraisal differentially engage neural systems involved in attentional deployment and cognitive reframing, and have different emotional consequences.
This paper reviews and synthesizes functional imaging research that over the past decade has begun to offer new insights into the brain mechanisms underlying emotion regulation. Towards that end, the first section of the paper outlines a model of the processes and neural systems involved in emotion generation and regulation. The second section surveys recent research supporting and elaborating the model, focusing primarily on studies of the most commonly investigated strategy, which is known as reappraisal. At its core, the model specifies how prefrontal and cingulate control systems modulate activity in perceptual, semantic and affect systems as a function of one's regulatory goals, tactics, and the nature of the stimuli and emotions being regulated. This section also shows how the model can be generalized to understand the brain mechanisms underlying other emotion regulation strategies as well as a range of other allied phenomena. The third and last section considers directions for future research, including how basic models of emotion regulation can be translated to understand changes in emotion across the lifespan and in clinical disorders.
emotion; emotion regulation; cognitive control; amygdala; prefrontal cortex
Human neuroimaging offers a powerful way to connect animal and human research on emotion, with profound implications for psychological science. However, the gulf between animal and human studies remains a formidable obstacle: human studies typically focus on the cortex and a few subcortical regions such as the amygdala, whereas deeper structures such as the brainstem periaqueductal gray (PAG) play a key role in animal models. Here, we directly assessed the role of PAG in human affect by interleaving in a single fMRI session two conditions known to elicit strong emotional responses—physical pain and negative image viewing. Negative affect and PAG activity increased in both conditions. We next examined eight independent data sets, half featuring pain stimulation and half negative image viewing. In sum, these data sets comprised 198 additional participants. We found increased activity in PAG in all eight studies. Taken together, these findings suggest PAG is a key component of human affective responses.
periaqueductal gray; emotion; affect; pain; fMRI
People vary greatly in their dispositions to anxiously expect, readily perceive, and strongly react to social rejection (rejection sensitivity, RS) with implications for social functioning and health. Here, we examined how RS influences learning about social threat. Using a classical fear conditioning task, we established that high as compared to low (HRS vs. LRS) individuals displayed a resistance to extinction of the conditioned response to angry faces, but not to neutral faces or non-social stimuli. Our findings suggest that RS biases the flexible updating of acquired expectations for threat, which helps to explain how RS operates as a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Fear conditioning; Rejection sensitivity; Social threat; Extinction; Skin conductance response
Prior psychophysiological studies of cognitive reappraisal have generally focused on the down-regulation of negative affect, and have demonstrated either changes in self-reports of affective experience, or changes in facial EMG, but not both. Unfortunately, when taken separately, these measures are vulnerable to different sources of bias, and alternative explanations might account for changes in these indicators of negative affect. What is needed is a study that (1) obtains measures of self-reported affect together with facial EMG, and (2) examines the use of reappraisal to regulate externally and internally generated affective responses. In the present study, participants up- or down-regulated negative affect in the context of both negative and neutral pictures. Up-regulation led to greater self reports of negative affect, as well as greater corrugator and startle responses to both negative and neutral stimuli. Down-regulation led to lesser reports of negative affect, and lesser corrugator responses to negative and neutral stimuli. These results extend prior research by (1) showing simultaneous effects on multiple measures of affect, and (2) demonstrating that cognitive reappraisal may be used both to regulate responses to negative stimuli and to manufacture a negative response to neutral stimuli.
Emotion; Affect; Regulation; Startle; EMG; Reappraisal
Although it was proposed over a century ago that feedback from facial expressions influence emotional experience, tests of this hypothesis have been equivocal. Here we directly tested this facial feedback hypothesis (FFH) by comparing the impact on self-reported emotional experience of BOTOX injections (which paralyze muscles of facial expression) and a control Restylane injection (which is a cosmetic filler that does not affect facial muscles). When examined alone, BOTOX participants showed no pre- to post-treatment changes in emotional responses to our most positive and negative video clips. Between-groups comparisons, however, showed that relative to controls, BOTOX participants exhibited an overall significant decrease in the strength of emotional experience. This result was attributable to a) a pre- vs. post decrease in responses to mildly positive clips in the BOTOX group and b) an unexpected increase in responses to negative clips in the Restylane control group. These data suggest that feedback from facial expressions is not necessary for emotional experience, but may influence emotional experience in some circumstances. These findings point to specific directions for future work clarifying the expression-experience relationship.
BOTOX; Emotional Experience; Facial Expression; Facial Feedback; Embodied Emotion
Humans possess a remarkable capacity to understand the suffering of others. Cognitive neuroscience theories of empathy suggest that this capacity is supported by ‘shared representations’ of self and other. Consistent with this notion, a number of studies have found that perceiving others in pain and experiencing pain oneself recruit overlapping neural systems. Perception of pain in each of these conditions, however, may also cause unique patterns of activation, that may reveal more about the processing steps involved in each type of pain. To address this issue, we examined neural activity while participants experienced heat pain and watched videos of other individuals experiencing injuries. Results demonstrated (i) that both tasks activated anterior cingulate cortex and anterior insula, consistent with prior work; (ii) whereas self-pain activated anterior and mid insula regions implicated in interoception and nociception, other pain activated frontal, premotor, parietal and amygdala regions implicated in emotional learning and processing social cues; and (iii) that levels of trait anxiety correlated with activity in rostral lateral prefrontal cortex during perception of other pain but not during self-pain. Taken together, these data support the hypothesis that perception of pain in self and other, while sharing some neural commonalities, differ in their recruitment of systems specifically associated with decoding and learning about internal or external cues.
Empathy; pain; self; emotion; anterior cingulate; anterior insula
The distinction between processes used to perceive and understand the self and others has received considerable attention in psychology and neuroscience. Brain findings highlight a role for various regions, in particular the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), in supporting judgments about both the self and others. We performed a meta-analysis of 107 neuroimaging studies of self- and other-related judgments using Multilevel Kernel Density Analysis (MKDA; Kober & Wager, 2010). We sought to determine what brain regions are reliably involved in each judgment type, and in particular, what the spatial and functional organization of mPFC is with respect to them. Relative to non-mentalizing judgments, both self and other judgments were associated with activity in mPFC, ranging from ventral to dorsal extents, as well as common activation of the left temporoparietal junction (TPJ) and posterior cingulate. A direct comparison between self and other judgments revealed that ventral mPFC (vmPFC), as well as left ventrolateral PFC and left insula, were more frequently activated by self-related judgments, whereas dorsal mPFC (dmPFC), in addition to bilateral TPJ and cuneus, were more frequently activated by other-related judgments. Logistic regression analyses revealed that ventral and dorsal mPFC lay at opposite ends of a functional gradient: the z-coordinates reported in individual studies predicted whether the study involved self- or other-related judgments, which were associated with increasingly ventral or dorsal portions of mPFC, respectively. These results argue for a distributed rather than localizationist account of mPFC organization and support an emerging view on the functional heterogeneity of mPFC.
This study explored how the effectiveness of specific emotion regulation strategies might be influenced by aging and by time of day, given that in older age the circadian peak in cognitive performance is earlier in the day. We compared the benefit gained by 40 older (60–78 years; 20 women) and 40 younger (18–30 years; 20 women) adults during either on-peak or off-peak circadian times on 2 specific types of cognitive emotion regulation strategies: distraction and reappraisal. Participants rated their negative emotional responses to negative and neutral images under 3 conditions: a baseline nonregulation condition, a distraction condition involving a working memory task, and a reappraisal condition that involved reinterpreting the situation displayed using specific preselected strategies. First, as hypothesized, there was a crossover interaction such that participants in each age group reported more negative reactivity at their off-peak time of day. Second, a double dissociation was observed as circadian rhythms affected only negative reactivity—with reactivity highest at off-peak times—and aging diminished reappraisal but not distraction ability or reactivity. These findings add to growing evidence that understanding the effects of aging on emotion and emotion regulation depends on taking both time of day and type of regulatory strategy into account.
emotional reactivity; emotion regulation; cognitive reappraisal; aging; circadian rhythms
The ability to use cognitive reappraisal to regulate emotions is an adaptive skill in adulthood, but little is known about its development. Because reappraisal is thought to be supported by linearly developing prefrontal regions, one prediction is that reappraisal ability develops linearly. However, recent investigations into socio-emotional development suggest that there are non-linear patterns that uniquely affect adolescents. We compared older children (10–13), adolescents (14–17) and young adults (18–22) on a task that distinguishes negative emotional reactivity from reappraisal ability. Behaviorally, we observed no age differences in self-reported emotional reactivity, but linear and quadratic relationships between reappraisal ability and age. Neurally, we observed linear age-related increases in activation in the left ventrolateral prefrontal cortex, previously identified in adult reappraisal. We observed a quadratic pattern of activation with age in regions associated with social cognitive processes like mental state attribution (medial prefrontal cortex, posterior cingulate cortex, anterior temporal cortex). In these regions, we observed relatively lower reactivity-related activation in adolescents, but higher reappraisal-related activation. This suggests that (i) engagement of the cognitive control components of reappraisal increases linearly with age and (ii) adolescents may not normally recruit regions associated with mental state attribution, but (iii) this can be reversed with reappraisal instructions.
reappraisal; emotion regulation; development; social; cognitive
To examine whether reappraisal modifies responses to subsequent encounters with stimuli, participants viewed neutral and unpleasant pictures that were preceded by negative or neutral descriptions which served as reappraisal frames. A half an hour later, the same pictures were presented, without preceding frames; EEG was recorded and participants rated each picture on arousal and valence. In line with previous work, unpleasant compared to neutral pictures elicited more positive early- (359 ms), mid- (1074 ms) and late-latency (2436 ms) centrally-distributed ERP components. Pictures previously preceded by negative compared to neutral reappraisal frames were rated as more unpleasant and more emotionally arousing; these pictures elicited a larger mid-latency (1074 ms) occipital positivity. Together, the data suggest that reappraisal exerts an enduring effect on both subjective and neural responses to stimuli.
ERPs; reappraisal; IAPS; late positive potential; emotion regulation; PCA
Belief in one’s ability to exert control over the environment and to produce desired results is essential for an individual’s well being. It has been repeatedly argued that the perception of control is not only desirable, but it is likely a psychological and biological necessity. In this article, we review the literature supporting this claim and present evidence for a biological basis for the need for control and for choice — that is, the means by which we exercise control over the environment. Converging evidence from animal research, clinical studies, and neuroimaging work suggest that the need for control is a biological imperative for survival, and a corticostriatal network is implicated as the neural substrate of this adaptive behavior.
Cognitive reappraisal is a commonly used and highly adaptive strategy for emotion regulation that has been studied in healthy volunteers. Most studies to date have focused on forms of reappraisal that involve reinterpreting the meaning of stimuli and have intermixed social and non-social emotional stimuli. Here we examined the neural correlates of the regulation of negative emotion elicited by social situations using a less studied form of reappraisal known as distancing. Whole brain fMRI data were obtained as participants viewed aversive and neutral social scenes with instructions to either simply look at and respond naturally to the images or to downregulate their emotional responses by distancing. Three key findings were obtained accompanied with the reduced aversive response behaviorally. First, across both instruction types, aversive social images activated the amygdala. Second, across both image types, distancing activated the precuneus and posterior cingulate cortex (PCC), intraparietal sulci (IPS), and middle/superior temporal gyrus (M/STG). Third, when distancing one’s self from aversive images, activity increased in dorsal anterior cingulate (dACC), medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), lateral prefrontal cortex, precuneus and PCC, IPS, and M/STG, meanwhile, and decreased in the amygdala. These findings demonstrate that distancing from aversive social cues modulates amygdala activity via engagement of networks implicated in social perception, perspective-taking, and attentional allocation.
Emotion; Cognitive Reappraisal; Social Cognitive Neuroscience; Emotional Distancing; Emotion Regulation; fMRI
Cigarette craving is an important contributor to cigarette smoking, and clinical approaches that focus on regulation of craving are effective in reducing rates of relapse. However, a laboratory model that targets the use of cognitive strategies to regulate craving is lacking. To develop such a model, twenty heavy cigarette smokers (>12/day), twenty-two tobacco “chippers” (<6/day), and twenty non-smoking controls completed this outpatient study, during which they were presented with photographs of cigarettes and foods that have been previously shown to induce craving. During each trial, participants were instructed to think of the stimulus in one of two ways: by focusing either on the short-term consequences associated with consuming the item (e.g., it will taste good) or on the long-term consequences associated with regular consumption (e.g., I may get lung cancer). Participants reported significantly reduced food cravings when focusing on the long-term consequences associated with eating. For cigarette-smoking participants, cigarette craving was significantly reduced when focusing on the long-term consequences associated with smoking. This latter finding confirms clinical data and extends it by highlighting the importance of cognition in the modulation of craving. Future studies using this laboratory model could test the efficacy of different cognitive strategies and develop targeted interventions for smoking cessation based on the regulation of craving.
Cigarette smokers; tobacco chippers; craving; cognitive strategies; emotion regulation
Cognitive control mechanisms allow individuals to behave adaptively in the face of complex and sometimes conflicting information. While the neural bases of these control mechanisms have been examined in many contexts, almost no attention has been paid to their role in resolving conflicts between competing social cues, which is surprising, given that cognitive conflicts are part of many social interactions. Evidence about the neural processing of social information suggests that two systems—the mirror neuron system (MNS) and mental state attribution system (MSAS)—are specialized for processing nonverbal and contextual social cues, respectively. This could support a model of social cognitive conflict resolution in which competition between social cues would recruit domain-general cognitive control mechanisms, which in turn would bias processing towards the MNS or MSAS. Such biasing could also alter social behaviors, such as inferences made about the internal states of others. We tested this model by scanning participants using fMRI while they drew inferences about social targets' emotional states based on congruent or incongruent nonverbal and contextual social cues. Conflicts between social cues recruited the anterior cingulate and lateral prefrontal cortex, brain areas associated with domain-general control processes. This activation was accompanied by biasing of neural activity towards areas in the MNS or MSAS, which tracked, respectively, with perceivers' behavioral reliance on nonverbal or contextual cues when drawing inferences about targets' emotions. Together, these data provide evidence about both domain general and domain specific mechanisms involved in resolving social cognitive conflicts.
Social cognition; fMRI; cognitive control; mirror neuron system; medial prefrontal cortex
Emotions are generally thought to arise through the interaction of bottom-up and top-down processes. However, prior work has not delineated their relative contributions. In a sample of 20 females, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging to compare the neural correlates of negative emotions generated by the bottom-up perception of aversive images and by the top-down interpretation of neutral images as aversive. We found that (a) both types of responses activated the amygdala, although bottom-up responses did so more strongly; (b) bottom-up responses activated systems for attending to and encoding perceptual and affective stimulus properties, whereas top-down responses activated prefrontal regions that represent high-level cognitive interpretations; and (c) self-reported affect correlated with activity in the amygdala during bottom-up responding and with activity in the medial prefrontal cortex during top-down responding. These findings provide a neural foundation for emotion theories that posit multiple kinds of appraisal processes and help to clarify mechanisms underlying clinically relevant forms of emotion dysregulation.
Contracting muscles involved in facial expressions (e.g. smiling or frowning) can make emotions more intense, even when unaware one is modifying expression (e.g. Strack, Martin, & Stepper, 1988). However, it is unresolved whether and how inhibiting facial expressions might weaken emotional experience. In the present study, 142 participants watched positive and negative video clips while either inhibiting their facial expressions or not. When hypothesis awareness and effects of distraction were experimentally controlled, inhibiting facial expressions weakened some emotional experiences. These findings provide new insight into ways that inhibition of facial expression can affect emotional experience: the link is not dependent on experimental demand, lay theories about connections between expression and experience, or the distraction involved in inhibiting one’s expressions.
Affect; Emotion; Emotional Experience; Facial Expression; Facial Feedback; Embodied Emotion; Embodied Cognition; Non-verbal Communication; Expressive Inhibition; Expressive Suppression
More than 3,000 individuals from seven US cities reported on their memories of learning of the terrorist attacks of September 11, as well as details about the attack, one week, 11 months, and/or 35 months after the assault. Some studies of flashbulb memories examining long-term retention show slowing in the rate of forgetting after a year, whereas others demonstrate accelerated forgetting. The present paper indicates that (1) the rate of forgetting for flashbulb memories and event memory (memory for details about the event itself) slows after a year, (2) the strong emotional reactions elicited by flashbulb events are remembered poorly, worse than non-emotional features such as where and from whom one learned of the attack, and (3) the content of flashbulb and event memories stabilizes after a year. The results are discussed in terms of community memory practices.
flashbulb memories; long-term retention; memory practices; event memory; emotional memory