Individual differences in cognitive reappraisal use and emotion regulatory brain function in combat-exposed veterans with and without PTSD

Jacklynn M. Fitzgerald, Annmarie MacNamara, Amy E. Kennedy, Christine A. Rabinak, Sheila A.M. Rauch, Israel Liberzon, K. Luan Phan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Background: Veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) exhibit marked deficits in emotion regulation. Past research has demonstrated underengagement of the prefrontal cortex during regulation of negative affect in those with PTSD, but has been unable to find evidence of impaired downregulation of the amygdala. One possibility is that there exists variability in amygdala reactivity that cuts across diagnostic status and which can be characterized using a continuous measure of individual differences. In healthy/nontraumatized volunteers, individual variability in amygdala engagement during emotion processing and regulation has been shown to relate to habitual use of regulation strategies. Methods: The current study examined whether self-reported use of cognitive reappraisal and expressive suppression regulation strategies correlated with brain activation during cognitive reappraisal in combat-exposed veterans with (n = 28) and without PTSD (combat-exposed controls, CEC; n = 20). Results: Results showed that greater self-reported use of cognitive reappraisal was associated with less activation in the right amygdala during volitional attempts to attenuate negative affect using reappraisal, irrespective of PTSD diagnosis. Conclusions: This finding is in line with prior work and extends evidence of an association between habitual use of regulation strategies and amygdala engagement during emotion regulation to a trauma-exposed sample of individuals both with and without PTSD. Furthermore, by providing evidence of individual differences in regulation-related amygdala response in a traumatized sample, this result may increase understanding of the neural mechanisms that support variability in symptom manifestation observed across individuals with PTSD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)79-88
Number of pages10
JournalDepression and Anxiety
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017


  • PTSD/posttraumatic stress disorder
  • biological markers
  • brain imaging/neuroimaging
  • functional MRI
  • trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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