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Capacity and tendency: A neuroscientific framework for the study of emotion regulation.


It is widely accepted that the ability to effectively regulate one's emotions is a cornerstone of physical and mental health. As such, it should come as no surprise that the number of neuroimaging studies focused on emotion regulation and associated processes has increased exponentially in the past decade. To date, neuroimaging research on this topic has examined two distinct but complementary features of emotion regulation - the capacity to effectively utilize a strategy to regulate emotion and to a lesser extent, the tendency to choose to regulate. However, theoretical accounts of emotion regulation have only recently begun to distinguish capacity from tendency. In the present review, we provide a novel framework for conceptualizing these two intertwined, yet distinct, facets of emotion regulation. First we characterize brain regions that support emotion generation and are thus targeted by emotion regulation. Next, we synthesize findings from the dozens of neuroimaging studies that have examined emotion regulation capacity, focusing in particular on the most commonly studied emotion regulation strategy - reappraisal. Finally, we discuss emerging neuroimaging research examining state and trait regulatory tendencies. We conclude by integrating findings from neuroimaging research on emotion regulation capacity and tendency and suggest ways that this integrated model can inform basic and translational neuroscientific research on emotion regulation.

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