Imaging the up’s and down’s of emotion regulation in lifetime depression
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Reappraisal is a particularly effective strategy for influencing emotional experiences, specifically for reducing the impact of negative stimuli. Although depression has repeatedly been linked to dysfunctional behavioral and neural emotion regulation, prefrontal and amygdala engagement seems to vary with clinical characteristics and the specific regulation strategy used. Whereas previous neuroimaging research has focused on down-regulating reactions to emotionally evocative scenes, the current study compared up- and down-regulation in response to angry facial expressions in patients with depression and healthy individuals. During the initial viewing of faces, patients with depression showed hypoactivation particularly in areas implicated in emotion generation, i.e., amygdala, insula and putamen. In contrast, up-regulating negative emotions yielded stronger recruitment of core face processing areas and posterior medial frontal cortex in patients than in controls. However, group differences did not extend to resting-state functional connectivity. Recurrent depression was inversely associated with amygdala activation specifically during down-regulation, but differences in medication status may limit the current findings. Despite a pattern of reduced neural emotional reactivity in mainly medicated patients, their ‘successful’ recruitment of the regulation network for up-regulation might point toward an effective use of reappraisal when increasing negative emotions. Future studies need to address how patients might benefit from transferring this ability to adaptive goals, such as improving interpersonal emotion regulation.
KeywordsDepression Emotion regulation Facial expression fMRI Reappraisal
SR and BD were supported by JARA-BRAIN. LK, FS and BD were supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG; IRTG-1328). This work was supported by the Brain Imaging Facility of the Interdisciplinary Center for Clinical Research within the Faculty of Medicine at the RWTH Aachen University.
Compliance with ethical standards
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
Conflict of interest
All authors declare no conflict of interest.
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