Modulation of Emotion by Cognitive Activity

Saea Iida, Hiroki C Tanabe, Takashi Nakao, Hideki Ohira


While emotions themselves are beneficial for our survival, they are also the targets to be regulated appropriately to adapt to social environments. Previous studies have demonstrated that cognitive strategies such as cognitive reappraisal and expressive suppression can effectively enhance and attenuate emotions. Such cognitive strategies of emotion regulation are based on cortical modulation of sub-cortical emotion-related brain regions. Though in the prior studies emotion regulation was conducted in parallel with or after the emotion elicitation, a series of our studies showed that prior cognitive activities can automatically and unintentionally attenuate subsequent emotional responses. In this article, after reviewing the previous findings about emotion regulation, we introduce our empirical findings showing that cognitive activities where the neural system of emotion regulation would be recruited can unintentionally and automatically dampen psychological and physiological emotional responses. Finally, we propose possible neural mechanisms underlying modulation of emotion by cognitive activity.


emotion regulation; cognitive activity; resting state brain activity

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