Abstract

We used fMRI to investigate the neural processes engaged as individuals down- and up-regulated the emotions associated with negative autobiographical memories (AMs) using cognitive reappraisal strategies. Our analyses examined neural activity during three separate phases, as participants (a) viewed a reappraisal instruction (i.e., Decrease, Increase, Maintain), (b) searched for an AM referenced by a self-generated cue, and (c) elaborated upon the details of the AM being held in mind. Decreasing emotional intensity primarily engaged activity in regions previously implicated in cognitive control (e.g., dorsal and ventral lateral pFC), emotion generation and processing (e.g., amygdala, insula), and visual imagery (e.g., precuneus) as participants searched for and retrieved events. In contrast, increasing emotional intensity engaged similar regions during the instruction phase (i.e., before a memory cue was presented) and again as individuals later elaborated upon the details of the events they had recalled. These findings confirm that reappraisal can modulate neural activity during the recall of personally relevant events, although the time course of this modulation appears to depend on whether individuals are attempting to down- or up-regulate their emotions.

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