Neural activation during cognitive reappraisal in girls at high risk for depression

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Although emotion dysregulation, one of the core features of depression, has long been thought to be a vulnerability factor for major depressive disorder (MDD), surprisingly few functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies have investigated neural correlates of emotion regulation strategies in unaffected high risk individuals.


Sixteen high risk (RSK) young women and fifteen matched low risk controls (CTL) were scanned using fMRI while performing an emotion regulation task. During this task, participants were instructed to reappraise their negative emotions elicited by International Affective Picture System images (IAPS). In addition, Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Strategies Scale (DERS) was used to assess participants' emotion dysregulation levels.


Both RSK and CTL individuals show increased amygdala activation in response to negative emotional stimuli, however no difference was found between groups in using cognitive reappraisal strategies and functions of brain regions implicated in cognitive reappraisal. Interestingly, our psychometric test results indicate that high risk individuals are characterised by lower perceived emotional clarity (EC).


Results of the current study suggest depression vulnerability may not be linked to the effectiveness of cognitive reappraisal. Alternatively, lower EC may be a vulnerability factor for depression.

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