Event-related induced frontal alpha as a marker of lateral prefrontal cortex activation during cognitive reappraisal

Cogn Affect Behav Neurosci. 2012 Dec;12(4):730-40. doi: 10.3758/s13415-012-0107-9.


Electrocortical activity, typically used to track the effects of cognitive reappraisal on the processing of emotional stimuli, has not been used to index the prefrontal-cortex-mediated regulatory mechanisms responsible for these effects. In the present study, we examined the novel possibility that induced frontal alpha (i.e., 8-13 Hz), shown to reflect the inhibition and disengagement of task-relevant cortical regions, may be quantified to explore cortical activation that is specifically enhanced during cognitive reappraisal. For this purpose, 44 participants viewed unpleasant and neutral pictures followed by auditory instructions to either continue viewing the picture or reduce their emotional response to the picture by making the picture seem less emotional (i.e., cognitive reappraisal). In line with previous work, unpleasant pictures elicited a larger late positive potential (LPP) than did neutral pictures. Also corroborating previous work, the mid-latency LPP was reduced when pictures were cognitively reappraised. However, the present study showed for the first time that whereas unpleasant pictures elicited higher frontal alpha power bilaterally than did the neutral pictures, frontal alpha power was reduced (indicative of more activation and cognitive control) during cognitive reappraisal of both picture types over the left hemisphere. Taken together, the LPP and event-related induced frontal-alpha findings contribute unique information about the distinct neural substrates and cognitive processes underlying reappraisal.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Alpha Rhythm / physiology*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Electroencephalography
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Reaction Time
  • Students
  • Universities