Enhanced emotion regulation capacity and its neural substrates in those exposed to moderate childhood adversity

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Individuals exposed to childhood adversities (CA) present with emotion regulation (ER) difficulties in later life, which have been identified as risk and maintenance factors for psychopathologies. However, it is unclear if CA negatively impacts on ER capacity per se or whether observed regulation difficulties are a function of the challenging circumstances in which ER is being deployed. In this longitudinal study, we aimed to clarify this association by investigating the behavioral and neural effects of exposure to common moderate CA (mCA) on a laboratory measure of ER capacity in late adolescence/young adulthood. Our population-derived samples of adolescents/young adults (N = 53) were administered a film-based ER-task during functional magnetic resonance imaging that allowed evaluation of ER across mCA-exposure. mCA-exposure was associated with enhanced ER capacity over both positive and negative affect. At the neural level, the better ER of negative material in those exposed to mCA was associated with reduced recruitment of ER-related brain regions, including the prefrontal cortex and temporal gyrus. In addition mCA-exposure was associated with a greater down-regulation of the amygdala during ER of negative material. The implications of these findings for our understanding of the effects of mCA on the emergence of resilience in adolescence are discussed.

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