Neuroticism and psychopathy predict brain activation during moral and nonmoral emotion regulation

  • Carla L. HarenskiEmail author
  • Sang Hee Kim
  • Stephan Hamann


Functional neuroimaging has identified brain regions associated with voluntary regulation of emotion, including the prefrontal cortex and amygdala. The neural mechanisms underlying individual differences in emotion regulation have not been extensively studied. We investigated the neural correlates of neuroticism and psychopathic personality traits in the context of an emotion regulation task. Results showed that amygdala activity elicited by unpleasant pictures was positively correlated with neuroticism and negatively correlated with a specific psychopathic trait related to emotional underreactivity. During active attempts to decrease emotional responses to unpleasant pictures, superior and ventrolateral prefrontal activity was positively correlated with psychopathy, but not with neuroticism. In contrast, dorsolateral prefrontal activity was positively correlated with neuroticism, but not with psychopathy. Psychopathy was also negatively correlated with medial prefrontal activity in response to pictures depicting moral violations, suggesting reduced emotional responses to moral stimuli in individuals with high levels of psychopathic traits. These results demonstrate dissociable influences of different personality traits on neural activity associated with responses to emotional stimuli and on the recruitment of regulation-related brain activity during the active down-regulation of responses to negative emotional stimuli. These results have implications for the etiology of trait-based psychopathology involving emotional dysregulation.


Emotion Regulation Emotional Response Psychopathic Trait Amygdala Activity Unpleasant Picture 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carla L. Harenski
    • 3
    Email author
  • Sang Hee Kim
    • 1
  • Stephan Hamann
    • 2
  1. 1.Seoul National UniversitySeoulSouth Korea
  2. 2.Emory UniversityAtlanta
  3. 3.The MIND Research NetworkAlbuquerque

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