The effect of strategies, goals and stimulus material on the neural mechanisms of emotion regulation: A meta-analysis of fMRI studies

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2017 Jan:72:111-128. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2016.11.014. Epub 2016 Nov 25.


Emotion regulation comprises all extrinsic and intrinsic control processes whereby people monitor, evaluate and modify the occurrence, intensity and duration of emotional reactions. Here we sought to quantitatively summarize the existing neuroimaging literature to investigate a) whether different emotion regulation strategies are based on different or the same neural networks; b) which brain regions in particular support the up- and down-regulation of emotions, respectively; and c) to which degree the neural networks realising emotion regulation depend on the stimulus material used to elicit emotions. The left ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (VLPFC), the anterior insula and the supplementary motor area were consistently activated independent of the regulation strategy. VLPFC and posterior cingulate cortex were the main regions consistently found to be recruited during the up-regulation as well as the down-regulation of emotion. The down-regulation compared to the up-regulation of emotions was associated with more right-lateralized activity while up-regulating emotions more strongly modulated activity in the ventral striatum. Finally, the process of emotion regulation appeared to be unaffected by stimulus material.

Keywords: Cognitive functions; Concentration; Distancing; Distraction; Emotion regulation processes; Neural networks; Neuroimaging; Reappraisal; Reinterpretation; Suppression.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain
  • Brain Mapping
  • Emotions*
  • Goals
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging