Executive and semantic processes in reappraisal of negative stimuli: insights from a meta-analysis of neuroimaging studies

Front Psychol. 2015 Jul 13:6:956. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00956. eCollection 2015.


Neuroimaging investigations have identified the neural correlates of reappraisal in executive areas. These findings have been interpreted as evidence for recruitment of controlled processes, at the expense of automatic processes when responding to emotional stimuli. However, activation of semantic areas has also been reported. The aim of the present work was to address the issue of the importance of semantic areas in emotion regulation by comparing recruitment of executive and semantic neural substrates in studies investigating different reappraisal strategies. With this aim, we reviewed neuroimaging studies on reappraisal and we classified them in two main categories: reappraisal of stimuli (RS) and reappraisal via perspective taking (RPT). We applied a coordinate-based meta-analysis to summarize the results of fMRI studies on different reappraisal strategies. Our results showed that reappraisal, when considered regardless of the specific instruction used in the studies, involved both executive and semantic areas of the brain. When considering different reappraisal strategies separately, in contrast, we found areas associated with executive function to be prominently recruited by RS, even if also semantic areas were activated. Instead, in RPT the most important clusters of brain activity were found in parietal and temporal semantic areas, without significant clusters in executive areas. These results indicate that modulation of activity in semantic areas may constitute an important aspect of emotion regulation in reappraisal, suggesting that semantic processes may be more important to understand the mechanism of emotion regulation than previously thought.

Keywords: ALE; emotion regulation; meta-analysis; reappraisal; reappraisal of stimuli; reappraisal via perspective-taking.