Neural patterns during anticipation predict emotion regulation success for reappraisal

Cogn Affect Behav Neurosci. 2020 Aug;20(4):888-900. doi: 10.3758/s13415-020-00808-2.


The ability to exert control over emotions, termed emotion regulation (ER), is vital for everyday functioning. ER success may be influenced by processes relating to the anticipation (prior to active regulation) and implementation (during active regulation) of ER strategy use. We investigated whether brain activity patterns recorded using electroencephalography (EEG) during the first second of anticipation and implementation of two ER strategies-distraction and reappraisal-were related to regulation success. Participants viewed negative images that evoked disgust and sadness. Before each image was presented, participants were cued to either passively view the image or decrease their emotional responses. ER success scores were calculated from subsequent self-reported disgust and sadness ratings. Using multivariate support vector regression, ER success scores were predicted from spatiotemporal patterns of event-related potentials during the first second of anticipation and implementation phases of each ER strategy. For both sadness and disgust, reappraisal success could be predicted during anticipation, while distraction success could be predicted during implementation. These findings suggest that early anticipatory cognitive processes are a key determinant of reappraisal success, but may not be similarly important for distraction. This may be because reappraisal is more cognitively demanding than distraction, requiring enhanced preparation of mental resources.

Keywords: Anticipation; Electroencephalography (EEG); Emotion regulation; Multivariate pattern analysis (MVPA); Regulation success.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anticipation, Psychological / physiology*
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Cues
  • Disgust
  • Electroencephalography
  • Emotional Regulation / physiology*
  • Evoked Potentials / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Judgment / physiology*
  • Male
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology*
  • Sadness
  • Young Adult