Brain structural basis of cognitive reappraisal and expressive suppression

Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. 2014 Sep;9(9):1435-42. doi: 10.1093/scan/nst130. Epub 2013 Aug 14.


Cognitive reappraisal and expressive suppression, two major emotion regulation strategies, are differentially related to emotional well-being. The aim of this study was to test the association of individual differences in these two emotion regulation strategies with gray matter volume of brain regions that have been shown to be involved in the regulation of emotions. Based on high-resolution magnetic resonance images of 96 young adults voxel-based morphometry was used to analyze the gray matter volumes of the a priori regions of interest, including amygdala, insula, dorsal anterior cingulate and paracingulate cortex, medial and lateral prefrontal cortex (PFC) and their association with cognitive reappraisal and expressive suppression usage as well as neuroticism. A positive association of cognitive reappraisal with right and tendentially left amygdala volume and of neuroticism with left amygdala volume (marginally significant) was found. Expressive suppression was related to dorsal anterior cingulate/paracingulate cortex and medial PFC gray matter volume. The results of this study emphasize the important role of the amygdala in individual differences in cognitive reappraisal usage as well as neuroticism. Additionally, the association of expressive suppression usage with larger volumes of the medial PFC and dorsal anterior/paracingulate cortex underpins the role of these regions in regulating emotion-expressive behavior.

Keywords: amygdala; cognitive reappraisal; emotion regulation; expressive suppression; vmPFC; voxel-based morphometry.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Expressed Emotion / physiology*
  • Female
  • Habituation, Psychophysiologic
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Individuality*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Statistics as Topic
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult