Cognitive reappraisal of emotion: A meta-analysis of human neuroimaging studies

Citation: Buhle, J., Silvers, J.A., Wager, T.D., Lopez, R., Onyemekwu, C., Kober, H., Weber, J., Ochsner, K.N. (2013). Cognitive reappraisal of emotion: A meta-analysis of human neuroimaging studies. Cerebral Cortex.

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In recent years, an explosion of neuroimaging studies has examined cognitive reappraisal, an emotion regulation strategy that involves changing the way one thinks about a stimulus in order to change its affective impact. Existing models broadly agree that reappraisal recruits frontal and parietal control regions to modulate emotional responding in the
amygdala, but they offer competing visions of how this is accomplished. One view holds that control regions engage ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC), an area associated with fear extinction, that in turn modulates amygdala responses. An alternative view is that control regions modulate semantic representations in lateral temporal cortex that
indirectly influence emotion-related responses in the amygdala. Furthermore, while previous work has emphasized the amygdala, whether reappraisal influences other regions implicated in emotional responding remains unknown. To resolve these questions, we performed a meta-analysis of 48 neuroimaging studies of reappraisal, most involving downregulation of negative affect. Reappraisal consistently a) activated cognitive control regions and lateral temporal cortex, but not vmPFC, and b) modulated the bilateral amygdala, but no other brain regions. This suggests that reappraisal involves the use of cognitive control to modulate semantic representations of an emotional stimulus, and these altered representations in turn attenuate activity in the amygdala.