Successful Emotion Regulation Is Predicted by Amygdala Activity and Aspects of Personality: A Latent Variable Approach

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Abstract

The experience of emotions and their cognitive control are based upon neural responses in prefrontal and subcortical regions and could be affected by personality and temperamental traits. Previous studies established an association between activity in reappraisal-related brain regions (e.g., inferior frontal gyrus and amygdala) and emotion regulation success. Given these relationships, we aimed to further elucidate how individual differences in emotion regulation skills relate to brain activity within the emotion regulation network on the one hand, and personality/temperamental traits on the other. We directly examined the relationship between personality and temperamental traits, emotion regulation success and its underlying neuronal network in a large sample (N = 82) using an explicit emotion regulation task and functional MRI (fMRI). We applied a multimethodological analysis approach, combing standard activation-based analyses with structural equation modeling. First, we found that successful downregulation is predicted by activity in key regions related to emotion processing. Second, the individual ability to successfully upregulate emotions is strongly associated with the ability to identify feelings, conscientiousness, and neuroticism. Third, the successful downregulation of emotion is modulated by openness to experience and habitual use of reappraisal. Fourth, the ability to regulate emotions is best predicted by a combination of brain activity and personality as well temperamental traits. Using a multimethodological analysis approach, we provide a first step toward a causal model of individual differences in emotion regulation ability by linking biological systems underlying emotion regulation with descriptive constructs.

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