The Neural Bases of Uninstructed Negative Emotion Modulation

Posted: 28 Oct 2016

See all articles by Jennifer Silvers

Jennifer Silvers

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)

Tor Wager

University of Colorado at Boulder

Jochen Weber

Independent

Kevin N. Ochsner

Columbia University - Department of Psychology

Date Written: October 24, 2016

Abstract

Although numerous neuroimaging studies have examined what happens when individuals are instructed to regulate their emotions, we rarely receive such instruction in everyday life. This study sought to examine what underlies uninstructed modulation of negative affect by examining neural responses when responding naturally to negative stimuli -- and for comparison -- during instructed reappraisal of negative stimuli as well. Two analyses were conducted to identify how variability in negative affect related to neural responses when responding naturally. First, in a within-participant analysis, lower levels of self-reported negative affect on a given trial were associated with recruitment of dorsolateral and dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (PFC) -- brain regions also active during instructed reappraisal -- whereas higher levels of negative affect were associated with recruitment of the amygdala -- a region that responded more strongly overall to negative than neutral stimuli. Second, in a between-participant analysis, lower levels of average self-reported negative affect were associated with recruitment of ventromedial PFC. These results suggest that uninstructed modulation of emotion involves a combination of two types of regulatory processes, with moment-to-moment modulation depending on prefrontal regions that support reappraisal and individual differences in modulation depending on ventromedial PFC, a region involved in fear extinction.

Suggested Citation

Silvers, Jennifer and Wager, Tor and Weber, Jochen and Ochsner, Kevin N., The Neural Bases of Uninstructed Negative Emotion Modulation (October 24, 2016). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2858400

Jennifer Silvers

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) ( email )

405 Hilgard Avenue
Box 951361
Los Angeles, CA 90095
United States

Tor Wager (Contact Author)

University of Colorado at Boulder ( email )

Boulder, CO

Jochen Weber

Independent ( email )

No Address Available

Kevin N. Ochsner

Columbia University - Department of Psychology ( email )

406 Schermerhorn Hall
1190 Amsterdam Avenue, Mail Code 5501
New York, NY 10027
United States

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