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Emot Rev. 2011 Jan;3(1):74-82.

From Basic Processes to Real-World Problems: How Research on Emotion and Emotion Regulation Can Inform Understanding of Psychopathology, and Vice Versa.

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  • 1Harvard University, Department of Psychology.


Research on emotion and emotion regulation is expected to improve our understanding of psychopathology. However, achieving this understanding requires overcoming several obstacles, including the paucity of objective markers of specific emotions or psychiatric diagnoses, and the fact that emotion regulation is a concept that can be difficult to operationalize. We review affective neuroscience research that has addressed these issues by focusing on psychological and neural mechanisms implicated in approach and avoidance behaviors, as revealed by studies of fear, anxiety, and reward processing. Dysfunction in these mechanisms may serve as risk markers for psychopathology, while emotion regulation research demonstrates that some of them are susceptible to volitional control. The conclusion acknowledges limitations of affective neuroscience and highlights goals for future work.

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