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Psychiatry Res. 2010 Aug 30;183(2):105-13. doi: 10.1016/j.pscychresns.2010.05.010. Epub 2010 Jul 13.

Habitual emotion regulation strategies and depressive symptoms in healthy subjects predict fMRI brain activation patterns related to major depression.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of Ulm, Leimgrubenweg 12-14, 89075 Ulm, Germany.


The response-focused emotion regulation style 'Expressive suppression' has been associated with symptoms of lower psychological well-being and increased function magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) activation of the sublenticular extended amygdala (SLEA) in patients with major depression. Extending prior studies on active emotion regulation, we were interested in effects of habitual emotion regulation on neurobiology. Thirty subjects with either relatively high or low suppression scores as assessed with the Emotion Regulation Questionnaire without symptoms of clinical depression participated in the study. They were instructed to expect and then perceive emotionally unpleasant, pleasant or neutral stimuli selected from the International Affective Picture System that were announced by a congruent cue during fMRI. In the subjects with high suppression scores, decreased activation of the orbital medial prefrontal cortex (oMFC) when expecting negative pictures and increased activation of the SLEA upon presentation of neutral stimuli were found. Subclinical depression ratings independently of suppression scores in the healthy subjects were positively correlated with brain activation in the SLEA when expecting negative pictures. SLEA hyperactivity may represent an emotional responsivity that involves less successful habitual emotion regulation and a tendency to depressed mood in healthy subjects, as shown in patients with major depression. Decreased anticipatory oMFC activation may parallel a lack of antecedent emotion regulation in subjects with high suppression scores, representing another neurobiological predictor of lower mental well-being.

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