Mood disorders are characterized by impaired emotion regulation abilities, reflected in alterations in frontolimbic brain functioning during regulation. However, little is known about differences in brain function when comparing regulatory strategies. Reappraisal and emotional acceptance are effective in downregulating negative affect, and are components of effective depression psychotherapies. Investigating neural mechanisms of reappraisal vs emotional acceptance in remitted major depressive disorder (rMDD) may yield novel mechanistic insights into depression risk and prevention. Thirty-seven individuals (18 rMDD, 19 controls) were assessed during a functional magnetic resonance imaging task requiring reappraisal, emotional acceptance or no explicit regulation while viewing sad images. Lower negative affect was reported following reappraisal than acceptance, and was lower following acceptance than no explicit regulation. In controls, the acceptance > reappraisal contrast revealed greater activation in left insular cortex and right prefrontal gyrus, and less activation in several other prefrontal regions. Compared with controls, the rMDD group had greater paracingulate and right midfrontal gyrus (BA 8) activation during reappraisal relative to acceptance. Compared with reappraisal, acceptance is associated with activation in regions linked to somatic and emotion awareness, although this activation is associated with less reduction in negative affect. Additionally, a history of MDD moderated these effects.
Keywords: acceptance; emotion regulation; mindfulness; reappraisal; remitted major depression.
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