Common and distinct neural correlates of fear extinction and cognitive reappraisal: A meta-analysis of fMRI studies

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2019 Sep;104:102-115. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2019.06.029. Epub 2019 Jul 3.


Cognitive reappraisal and fear extinction learning represent two different approaches to emotion regulation. While their respective neural correlates have been widely studied with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), few direct comparisons between these processes have been conducted. We conducted a meta-analysis of fMRI studies of reappraisal and fear extinction, with the aim of examining both commonalities and differences in their neural correlates. We also conducted independent analyses that focused on specific reappraisal strategies (reinterpretation, distancing). Overall, we observed that the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC) and the bilateral anterior insular cortex (AIC) were similarly consistently engaged by reappraisal and extinction. Extinction was more consistently linked to activation of sensory and emotion processing regions, whereas reappraisal was more consistently associated with activation of a dorsal fronto-parietal network. Interestingly, the amygdala was preferentially deactivated by distancing. These results suggest that the dACC and the AIC are involved in domain-general regulatory networks. Differences between extinction and reappraisal could be explained by their relative processing demands on visual perceptual versus higher cognitive neural systems.

Keywords: Cognitive reappraisal; Distancing; Emotion regulation; Fear extinction; Meta-analysis; Reinterpretation; fMRI.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain Mapping*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Emotional Regulation / physiology*
  • Extinction, Psychological / physiology*
  • Fear / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Nerve Net / physiology*