Brain Imaging and Behavior

, Volume 12, Issue 6, pp 1529–1543 | Cite as

Neural correlates of reappraisal considering working memory capacity and cognitive flexibility

  • Jenny Zaehringer
  • Rosalux FalquezEmail author
  • Anna-Lena Schubert
  • Frauke Nees
  • Sven Barnow
Original Research


Cognitive reappraisal of emotion is strongly related to long-term mental health. Therefore, the exploration of underlying cognitive and neural mechanisms has become an essential focus of research. Considering that reappraisal and executive functions rely on a similar brain network, the question arises whether behavioral differences in executive functions modulate neural activity during reappraisal. Using functional neuroimaging, the present study aimed to analyze the role of working memory capacity (WMC) and cognitive flexibility in brain activity during down-regulation of negative emotions by reappraisal in N = 20 healthy participants. Results suggests that WMC and cognitive flexibility were negatively correlated with prefrontal activity during reappraisal condition. Here, results also revealed a negative correlation between cognitive flexibility and amygdala activation. These findings provide first hints that (1) individuals with lower WMC and lower cognitive flexibility might need more higher-order cognitive neural resources in order to down-regulate negative emotions and (2) cognitive flexibility relates to emotional reactivity during reappraisal.


Cognitive reappraisal Working memory capacity Cognitive flexibility Prefrontal cortex Emotion regulation 



This research was conducted at the University of Heidelberg, Institute of Psychology, Heidelberg, Germany and was supported by the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg. This research is based on an unpublished master's thesis by Jenny Zaehringer. The authors would like to thank Katrin Schulze, Moritz Berger, Adelheid Fuxa and Moritz Riese for their friendly support during the data collection and analyses.

Compliance with ethical standards

The manuscript meets the guidelines for ethical conduct and report of research mentioned in the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study. The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

11682_2017_9788_MOESM1_ESM.docx (38 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 37 KB)


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jenny Zaehringer
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Rosalux Falquez
    • 1
    Email author
  • Anna-Lena Schubert
    • 4
  • Frauke Nees
    • 5
  • Sven Barnow
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, Institute of PsychologyHeidelberg UniversityHeidelbergGermany
  2. 2.Department Neuroimaging, Central Institute of Mental Health Mannheim, Medical Faculty MannheimHeidelberg UniversityHeidelbergGermany
  3. 3.Department of Psychosomatic and Psychotherapeutic Medicine, Central Institute of Mental Health Mannheim, Medical Faculty MannheimHeidelberg UniversityHeidelbergGermany
  4. 4.Department of Personality Research, Institute of PsychologyHeidelberg UniversityHeidelbergGermany
  5. 5.Department of Cognitive and Clinical Neuroscience, Central Institute of Mental Health Mannheim, Medical Faculty MannheimHeidelberg UniversityHeidelbergGermany

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