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Dev Cogn Neurosci. 2011 Jul;1(3):324-37. doi: 10.1016/j.dcn.2011.03.004.

How grossed out are you? The neural bases of emotion regulation from childhood to adolescence.

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Yale Child Study Center, Yale School of Medicine, 230 South Frontage Road, New Haven, CT 06510, USA.


The ability to regulate one's emotions is critical to mental health and well-being, and is impaired in a wide range of psychopathologies, some of which initially manifest in childhood or adolescence. Cognitive reappraisal is a particular approach to emotion regulation frequently utilized in behavioral psychotherapies. Despite a wealth of research on cognitive reappraisal in adults, little is known about the developmental trajectory of brain mechanisms subserving this form of emotion regulation in children. In this functional magnetic resonance imaging study, we asked children and adolescents to up-and down-regulate their response to disgusting images, as the experience of disgust has been linked to anxiety disorders. We demonstrate distinct patterns of brain activation during successful up- and down-regulation of emotion, as well as an inverse correlation between activity in ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) and limbic structures during down-regulation, suggestive of a potential regulatory role for vmPFC. Further, we show age-related effects on activity in PFC and amygdala. These findings have important clinical implications for the understanding of cognitive-based therapies in anxiety disorders in childhood and adolescence.


cognitive reappraisal; development; emotion regulation; functional magnetic resonance imaging

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