Neural Activation during Cognitive Emotion Regulation in Previously Depressed Compared to Healthy Children: Evidence of Specific Alterations

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

20 Scopus citations


Objective: Impairments in cognitive emotion regulation (CER) have been linked to functional neural abnormalities and the pathogenesis of major depressive disorder (MDD). Few functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies have investigated the neural underpinnings of CER in samples with depression. As CER develops in childhood, understanding dysfunctional CER-related alterations in brain function during this period could advance knowledge of the developmental psychopathology of MDD. Method: This study tested whether neural activity in brain regions known to support cognitive reappraisal differed between healthy 7- to 15-year-old children and same-age peers with a history of MDD (MDD-ever). A total of 64 children participated in this event-related fMRI study, which used a developmentally appropriate and validated fMRI reappraisal task. Children were instructed to passively view sad or neutral images and to decrease negative emotions using cognitive reappraisal. Results: MDD-ever and healthy children showed similar patterns of cortical activation during reappraisal, but with a significant difference found in 1 key CER region, the left inferior frontal gyrus (IFG). In addition, individual differences in CER were associated with left IFG activity during reappraisal. Conclusion: Alterations in the neurocircuitry of reappraisal are evident in children with a depression history compared to healthy controls. The finding that MDD-ever children showed reappraisal-related neural responses in many regions similar to healthy controls has clinical implications. Findings suggest that identification of alterations in reappraisal in children with remitted depression, for whom much, although not all, of the neural circuitry remains intact, may be an important window of opportunity for intervention.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)771-781
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2015


  • MDD
  • childhood depression
  • cognitive reappraisal
  • emotion regulation
  • fMRI

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