Neural activation associated with the cognitive emotion regulation of sadness in healthy children

Andy C. Belden, Joan L. Luby, David Pagliaccio, Deanna M. Barch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


When used effectively, cognitive reappraisal of distressing events is a highly adaptive cognitive emotion regulation (CER) strategy, with impairments in cognitive reappraisal associated with greater risk for psychopathology. Despite extensive literature examining the neural correlates of cognitive reappraisal in healthy and psychiatrically ill adults, there is a dearth of data to inform the neural bases of CER in children, a key gap in the literature necessary to map the developmental trajectory of cognitive reappraisal. In this fMRI study, psychiatrically healthy schoolchildren were instructed to use cognitive reappraisal to modulate their emotional reactions and responses of negative affect after viewing sad photos. Consistent with the adult literature, when actively engaged in reappraisal compared to passively viewing sad photos, children showed increased activation in the vlPFC, dlPFC, and dmPFC as well as in parietal and temporal lobe regions. When children used cognitive reappraisal to minimize their experience of negative affect after viewing sad stimuli they exhibited dampened amygdala responses. Results are discussed in relation to the importance of identifying and characterizing neural processes underlying adaptive CER strategies in typically developing children in order to understand how these systems go awry and relate to the risk and occurrence of affective disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)136-147
Number of pages12
JournalDevelopmental Cognitive Neuroscience
StatePublished - Jul 2014


  • Cognitive reappraisal
  • Emotion
  • Emotion regulation
  • Late childhood
  • Sadness
  • fMRI


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