Bad and Worse: Neural Systems Underlying Reappraisal of High and Low Intensity Negative Emotions

Posted: 28 Oct 2016

See all articles by Jennifer Silvers

Jennifer Silvers

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)

Jochen Weber

Independent

Tor Wager

University of Colorado at Boulder

Kevin N. Ochsner

Columbia University - Department of Psychology

Date Written: October 24, 2016

Abstract

One of the most effective strategies for regulating emotional responses is cognitive reappraisal. While prior work has made great strides in characterizing reappraisal's neural mechanisms and behavioral outcomes, the key issue of how regulation varies as a function of emotional intensity remains unaddressed. We compared the behavioral and neural correlates of reappraisal of high and low intensity emotional responses using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). We found that successful reappraisal of both high and low intensity emotions depend upon recruitment of dorsomedial (dmPFC) as well as left dorsolateral (dlPFC) and ventrolateral (vlPFC) prefrontal cortex. However, reappraisal of high intensity emotions more strongly activated left dlPFC, and in addition, activated right lateral and dorsomedial PFC regions not recruited by low intensity reappraisal. No brain regions were more strongly recruited during reappraisal of low as compared to high intensity emotions. Taken together, these results suggest that reappraisal of high intensity emotion requires greater cognitive resources as evidenced by quantitative and qualitative differences in prefrontal recruitment. These data have implications for understanding how and when specific PFC systems are needed to regulate different types of emotional responses.

Suggested Citation

Silvers, Jennifer and Weber, Jochen and Wager, Tor and Ochsner, Kevin N., Bad and Worse: Neural Systems Underlying Reappraisal of High and Low Intensity Negative Emotions (October 24, 2016). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2858466

Jennifer Silvers

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

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

Jochen Weber

Independent ( email )

No Address Available

Tor Wager (Contact Author)

University of Colorado at Boulder ( email )

Boulder, CO

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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