Functional imaging studies of emotion regulation: a synthetic review and evolving model of the cognitive control of emotion


Kevin Ochsner, Department of Psychology, Columbia University, 369 Schermerhorn Hall, 1190 Amsterdam Ave., New York, NY 10027.


This paper reviews and synthesizes functional imaging research that over the past decade has begun to offer new insights into the brain mechanisms underlying emotion regulation. Toward that end, the first section of the paper outlines a model of the processes and neural systems involved in emotion generation and regulation. The second section surveys recent research supporting and elaborating the model, focusing primarily on studies of the most commonly investigated strategy, which is known as reappraisal. At its core, the model specifies how prefrontal and cingulate control systems modulate activity in perceptual, semantic, and affect systems as a function of one's regulatory goals, tactics, and the nature of the stimuli and emotions being regulated. This section also shows how the model can be generalized to understand the brain mechanisms underlying other emotion regulation strategies as well as a range of other allied phenomena. The third and last section considers directions for future research, including how basic models of emotion regulation can be translated to understand changes in emotion across the life span and in clinical disorders.