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Lasting Effects Of Cognitive Emotion Regulation: Neural Correlates Of Reinterpretation And Distancing.

  • Hermann, Andrea1, 2, 3
  • Neudert, Marie K1, 2
  • Schäfer, Axel2, 3
  • Zehtner, Raphaela I1, 2
  • Fricke, Susanne1, 2
  • Seinsche, Rosa J1, 2
  • Stark, Rudolf1, 2, 3
  • 1 Department of Psychotherapy and Systems Neuroscience, Justus Liebig University Giessen, Germany. , (Germany)
  • 2 Bender Institute of Neuroimaging, Justus Liebig University Giessen, Germany. , (Germany)
  • 3 Center for Mind, Brain and Behavior (CMBB), University of Marburg and Justus Liebig University Giessen, Germany. , (Germany)
Published Article
Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience
Oxford University Press
Publication Date
Nov 23, 2020
DOI: 10.1093/scan/nsaa159
PMID: 33227135


Reinterpretation and distancing are two cognitive reappraisal tactics, used to regulate one's emotions in response to emotion-eliciting stimuli or situations. Relatively less is known about their (differential) lasting effects on emotional responding and related neural correlates. This functional magnetic resonance imaging study investigated eighty-five healthy females, participating in a two-day cognitive emotion regulation experiment. On the first day, participants were instructed to passively look at, reinterpret, or distance from repeatedly presented aversive pictures. One week later, they were re-exposed to the same stimuli without regulation instruction, in order to assess lasting effects. Main outcome measures comprised ratings of negative feelings and blood-oxygen-level-dependent responses. Lasting effects for reinterpretation compared with looking at aversive pictures during passive re-exposure one week later were reflected in stronger activation of the left amygdala, the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) and reduced negative feelings. Neither distancing compared with looking at aversive pictures nor reinterpretation compared with distancing did result in significant effects during re-exposure. These findings indicate that reinterpretation leads to reduced negative feelings one week later which might be mediated by inhibitory vmPFC activation or stronger positive emotions during re-exposure. However, the missing difference compared to distancing questions the specificity of the results, and the mechanisms underlying these two cognitive reappraisal tactics. © The Author(s) 2020. Published by Oxford University Press.

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