Evidence of successful modulation of brain activation and subjective experience during reappraisal of negative emotion in unmedicated depression

Psychiatry Res. 2013 May 30;212(2):99-107. doi: 10.1016/j.pscychresns.2013.01.001. Epub 2013 Apr 6.


Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used to examine cognitive regulation of negative emotion in 12 unmedicated patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) and 24 controls. The participants used reappraisal to increase (real condition) and reduce (photo condition) the personal relevance of negative and neutral pictures during fMRI as valence ratings were collected; passive viewing (look condition) served as a baseline. Reappraisal was not strongly affected by MDD. Ratings indicated that both groups successfully reappraised negative emotional experience. Both groups also showed better memory for negative vs. neutral pictures 2 weeks later. Across groups, increased brain activation was observed on negative/real vs. negative/look and negative/photo trials in left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), rostral anterior cingulate, left parietal cortex, caudate, and right amygdala. Depressive severity was inversely correlated with activation modulation in the left DLPFC, right amygdala, and right cerebellum during negative reappraisal. The lack of group differences suggests that depressed adults can modulate the brain activation and subjective experience elicited by negative pictures when given clear instructions. However, the negative relationship between depression severity and effects of reappraisal on brain activation indicates that group differences may be detectable in larger samples of more severely depressed participants.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / blood supply
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Depression / diagnosis*
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Emotions*
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Recognition, Psychology / physiology
  • Young Adult


  • Oxygen