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Direct replication of task‐dependent neural activation patterns during sadness introspection in two independent adolescent samples

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Functional neuroimaging results need to replicate to inform sound models of human social cognition and its neural correlates. Introspection, the capacity to reflect on one's thoughts and feelings, is one process required for normative social cognition and emotional functioning. Engaging in introspection draws on a network of brain regions including medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), posterior cingulate cortex (PCC), middle temporal gyri (MTG), and temporoparietal junction (TPJ). Maturation of these regions during adolescence mirrors the behavioral advances seen in adolescent social cognition, but the neural correlates of introspection in adolescence need to replicate to confirm their generalizability and role as a possible mechanism. The current study investigated whether reflecting upon one's own feelings of sadness would activate and replicate similar brain regions in two independent samples of adolescents. Participants included 156 adolescents (50% female) from the California Families Project and 119 adolescent girls from the Pittsburgh Girls Study of Emotion. All participants completed the Emotion Regulation Questionnaire (ERQ) and underwent a functional magnetic resonance imaging scan while completing the same facial emotion-processing task at age 16-17 years. Both samples showed similar whole-brain activation patterns when engaged in sadness introspection and when judging a nonemotional facial feature. Whole-brain activation was unrelated to ERQ scores in both samples. Neural responsivity to task manipulations replicated in regions recruited for socio-emotional (mPFC, PCC, MTG, TPJ) and attention (dorsolateral PFC, precentral gyri, superior occipital gyrus, superior parietal lobule) processing. These findings demonstrate robust replication of neural engagement during sadness introspection in two independent adolescent samples.

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