Electrophysiological Evidence for Detrimental Impact of a Reappraisal Emotion Regulation Strategy on Subsequent Cognitive Control in Schizophrenia

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In healthy individuals, there is evidence that effective implementation of an emotion regulation strategy has beneficial effects on temporally proximal cognitive control task performance. This effect occurs because both of these processes rely heavily on the prefrontal cortex. Individuals with schizophrenia (SZ) have impairments in both emotion regulation and cognitive control that are driven by structural and functional abnormalities of the prefrontal cortex; however, it is unknown whether emotion regulation attempts fail to benefit subsequently performed cognitive control tasks in people with SZ. The present study examined whether attempts to increase or decrease negative emotion via reappraisal have differential effects on subsequent cognitive control in a sample of outpatients diagnosed with SZ (n = 30) and demographically matched healthy controls (CN; n = 29). Participants completed a combined emotion regulation and cognitive control task in which numerical Stroop trials were presented immediately after unpleasant or neutral images that were either increased via reappraisal, decreased via reappraisal, or passively viewed. The electroencephalogram was recorded while participants performed the reappraisal-Stroop task and event related potentials (ERPs) were used to index emotion regulation effectiveness (late positive potential: LPP) and cognitive control (sustained potential: SP). Both CN and SZ evidenced higher LPP amplitude for unpleasant than neutral stimuli consistent with robust neural response to unpleasant stimuli. Although CN demonstrated neurophysiological evidence of effective use of reappraisal to increase and decrease negative emotion, SZ only showed an effective ability to increase negative emotion via reappraisal. CN displayed enhanced cognitive control following increase trials and impaired cognitive control following decrease trials, as indicated by modulation of SP amplitude. In SZ, increase instructions impaired cognitive control and decrease instructions had no effect on cognitive control. Findings suggest that emotion regulation abnormalities may play an underrecognized role in general cognitive control deficits that occur in SZ.

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