Emotion regulation is hypothesized to be a multifaceted process by which individuals willfully modulate the intensity and direction of emotional response via prefrontally mediated inhibition of subcortical response-related regions of the brain. Here we employ activation likelihood estimation (ALE) meta-analysis of functional magnetic resonance imaging studies to (1) reveal a consistent network of structures active during emotion regulation, (2) identify the target regions inactivated by the willful regulation process, and (3) investigate the consistency of activated structures associated with downregulation and upregulation. Results reveal signal change in bilateral amygdala/parahippocampal gyrus that decreased in downregulated states and increased in upregulated states, while cortical regions including superior frontal gyrus, cingulate, and premotor areas exhibited enhanced activity across all regulation conditions. These results provide consistent evidence for the role of amygdala activity in experienced emotional intensity, where intentional dampening and exaggeration are clearly expressed. However, the execution of emotional upregulation and downregulation may involve distinct subsets of frontocortical structures.
Keywords: Amygdala; Deactivation; Emotion regulation; Meta-analysis; fMRI.
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