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J Cogn Neurosci. 2011 Sep;23(9):2569-81. doi: 10.1162/jocn.2011.21618. Epub 2011 Jan 21.

The influence of emotion regulation on decision-making under risk.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, RutgersUniversity, 101Warren Street, Newark, NJ 07102, USA.


Cognitive strategies typically involved in regulating negative emotions have recently been shown to also be effective with positive emotions associated with monetary rewards. However, it is less clear how these strategies influence behavior, such as preferences expressed during decision-making under risk, and the underlying neural circuitry. That is, can the effective use of emotion regulation strategies during presentation of a reward-conditioned stimulus influence decision-making under risk and neural structures involved in reward processing such as the striatum? To investigate this question, we asked participants to engage in imagery-focused regulation strategies during the presentation of a cue that preceded a financial decision-making phase. During the decision phase, participants then made a choice between a risky and a safe monetary lottery. Participants who successfully used cognitive regulation, as assessed by subjective ratings about perceived success and facility in implementation of strategies, made fewer risky choices in comparison with trials where decisions were made in the absence of cognitive regulation. Additionally, BOLD responses in the striatum were attenuated during decision-making as a function of successful emotion regulation. These findings suggest that exerting cognitive control over emotional responses can modulate neural responses associated with reward processing (e.g., striatum) and promote more goal-directed decision-making (e.g., less risky choices), illustrating the potential importance of cognitive strategies in curbing risk-seeking behaviors before they become maladaptive (e.g., substance abuse).

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