vlPFC-vmPFC-Amygdala Interactions Underlie Age-Related Differences in Cognitive Regulation of Emotion

Cereb Cortex. 2017 Jul 1;27(7):3502-3514. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhw073.


Emotion regulation is a critical life skill that develops throughout childhood and adolescence. Despite this development in emotional processes, little is known about how the underlying brain systems develop with age. This study examined emotion regulation in 112 individuals (aged 6-23 years) as they viewed aversive and neutral images using a reappraisal task. On "reappraisal" trials, participants were instructed to view the images as distant, a strategy that has been previously shown to reduce negative affect. On "reactivity" trials, participants were instructed to view the images without regulating emotions to assess baseline emotional responding. During reappraisal, age predicted less negative affect, reduced amygdala responses and inverse coupling between the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) and amygdala. Moreover, left ventrolateral prefrontal (vlPFC) recruitment mediated the relationship between increasing age and diminishing amygdala responses. This negative vlPFC-amygdala association was stronger for individuals with inverse coupling between the amygdala and vmPFC. These data provide evidence that vmPFC-amygdala connectivity facilitates vlPFC-related amygdala modulation across development.

Keywords: amygdala; emotion regulation; fMRI; neurodevelopment; prefrontal cortex.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Amygdala / diagnostic imaging
  • Amygdala / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Child
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Neural Pathways / diagnostic imaging
  • Neural Pathways / physiology*
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Prefrontal Cortex / diagnostic imaging
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Young Adult


  • Oxygen