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Int J Psychophysiol. 2017 Sep;119:108-118. doi: 10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2016.12.014. Epub 2017 Jan 3.

Motivation, emotion regulation, and the latent structure of psychopathology: An integrative and convergent historical perspective.

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The Ohio State University, United States. Electronic address:
The Ohio State University, United States.


Motivational models of psychopathology have long been advanced by psychophysiologists, and have provided key insights into neurobiological mechanisms of a wide range of psychiatric disorders. These accounts emphasize individual differences in activity and reactivity of bottom-up, subcortical neural systems of approach and avoidance in affecting behavior. Largely independent literatures emphasize the roles of top-down, cortical deficits in emotion regulation and executive function in conferring vulnerability to psychopathology. To date however, few models effectively integrate functions performed by bottom-up emotion generation system with those performed by top-down emotion regulation systems in accounting for alternative expressions of psychopathology. In this article, we present such a model, and describe how it accommodates the well replicated bifactor structure of psychopathology. We describe how excessive approach motivation maps directly into externalizing liability, how excessive passive avoidance motivation maps directly into internalizing liability, and how emotion dysregulation and executive function map onto general liability. This approach is consistent with the Research Domain Criteria initiative, which assumes that a limited number of brain systems interact to confer vulnerability to many if not most forms of psychopathology.


Emotion; Emotion regulation; Executive function; History; Latent structure; Motivation

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