Emotion Regulation in the Brain: Conceptual Issues and Directions for Developmental Research


concerning this article should be addressed to Marc D. Lewis, University of Toronto, 252 Bloor St. West, Toronto, Ontario, M5S 1V6, Canada


Emotion regulation cannot be temporally distinguished from emotion in the brain, but activation patterns in prefrontal cortex appear to mediate cognitive control during emotion episodes. Frontal event-related potentials (ERPs) can tap cognitive control hypothetically mediated by the anterior cingulate cortex, and developmentalists have used these to differentiate age, individual, and emotion-valence factors. Extending this approach, the present article outlines a research strategy for studying emotion regulation in children by combining emotion induction with a go/no-go task known to produce frontal ERPs. Preliminary results indicate that medial-frontal ERP amplitudes diminish with age but become more sensitive to anxiety, and internalizing children show higher amplitudes than noninternalizing children, especially when anxious. These results may reflect age and individual differences in the effortful regulation of negative emotion.