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J Neurosci. 2001 Sep 15;21(18):RC165.

Neural correlates of conscious self-regulation of emotion.

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  • 1Département de Radiologie, Faculté de Médecine, Université de Montréal and Centre Hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal (CHUM), Hôpital Notre-Dame, Montréal, Québec, Canada H2L 4M1.


A fundamental question about the relationship between cognition and emotion concerns the neural substrate underlying emotional self-regulation. To address this issue, brain activation was measured in normal male subjects while they either responded in a normal manner to erotic film excerpts or voluntarily attempted to inhibit the sexual arousal induced by viewing erotic stimuli. Results demonstrated that the sexual arousal experienced, in response to the erotic film excerpts, was associated with activation in "limbic" and paralimbic structures, such as the right amygdala, right anterior temporal pole, and hypothalamus. In addition, the attempted inhibition of the sexual arousal generated by viewing the erotic stimuli was associated with activation of the right superior frontal gyrus and right anterior cingulate gyrus. No activation was found in limbic areas. These findings reinforce the view that emotional self-regulation is normally implemented by a neural circuit comprising various prefrontal regions and subcortical limbic structures. They also suggest that humans have the capacity to influence the electrochemical dynamics of their brains, by voluntarily changing the nature of the mind processes unfolding in the psychological space.

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