An Emotional Roller Coaster Ride: Amygdala Functional Connectivity and Emotion Regulation in Children
Everyday we are confronted with situations, thoughts and memories that generate emotions, but occasionally emotions become too intense or maladaptive. The process of dealing with these feelings is called emotion regulation and is the ability to effectively and appropriately control thoughts, feelings and mood. Different people employ different emotion regulation strategies and are able to modulate feelings with varying degrees of success. Past work using emotion regulation tasks and fMRI have shown that many brain regions involved in emotion generation and control are important for successful emotion regulation. Fewer studies have investigated emotion regulation in children and whether emotion regulation is related to how these regions interact at rest. We investigated whether the strength of relationships between these regions at rest are related to differences in emotion regulation. We created networks of regions associated with the amygdala, a brain region central to many emotional processes, using existing data from brain scans of adults while at rest. Two networks of regions were identified, one positively and one negatively related to the amygdala (positive/negative networks). Fifty-one children ages 7-11 years completed both a resting brain scan and a questionnaire measuring emotion regulation. When network connections to the amygdala were correlated with emotion regulation measures, we found that better sadness coping and regulation were significantly associated with the strength of the relationship between the amygdala and the positive and negative networks respectively, indicating that individual differences in brain network connections may underlie emotion regulation ability.