Bad and worse: Neural systems underlying reappraisal of high and low intensity negative emotions

Citation: Silvers, J. A., Weber, J., Wager, T. D., & Ochsner, K. N. (2014). Bad and worse: Neural systems underlying reappraisal of high and low intensity negative emotions. Social cognitive and affective neuroscience, nsu043.

Full Text

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 regulate different types of emotional responses.