An fMRI Pilot Study of Cognitive Reappraisal in Children: Divergent Effects on Brain and Behavior.

Research paper by Lea R LR Dougherty, Sarah L SL Blankenship, Philip A PA Spechler, Srikanth S Padmala, Luiz L Pessoa

Indexed on: 23 Dec '15Published on: 23 Dec '15Published in: Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment


Although neuroimaging studies in adults demonstrate that cognitive reappraisal effectively down-regulates negative affect and results in increased prefrontal and decreased amygdala activity, very limited empirical data exist on the neural basis of cognitive reappraisal in children. This study aimed to pilot test a developmentally-appropriate guided cognitive reappraisal task in order to examine the effects of cognitive reappraisal on children's self-reports of affect and brain responses. Study 1 (N =19, 4-10 years-old) found that children successfully employed guided cognitive reappraisal to decrease subjective ratings of negative affect, supporting the effectiveness of the guided cognitive reappraisal task. Study 2 (N =15, ages 6-10 years-old) investigated the neural responses to guided cognitive reappraisal and found that the neural responses showed increased activation in the amygdala and ventromedial prefrontal cortex during the cognitive reappraisal condition compared to the no regulation condition. In addition, amygdala activity was positively correlated with ventromedial prefrontal cortex activation during cognitive reappraisal. Findings suggest that the neural networks supporting cognitive reappraisal in children involve similar brain regions but brain responses deviate from findings in adults. Our findings suggest that the neural networks supporting emotion regulation are still developing during middle childhood, and future research is necessary to delineate age-related development of the neural network involved in cognitive reappraisal.