Lower prefrontal activation during emotion regulation in subjects at ultrahigh risk for psychosis: An fMRI-study

Jorien van der Velde, Esther M Opmeer, Edith J Liemburg, Richard Bruggeman, Roeline Nieboer, Lex Wunderink, André Aleman

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Previous research has shown that patients with schizophrenia experience difficulties with emotion regulation and activate prefrontal regions to a lesser extent during reappraisal of emotional information. It has been suggested that problems in emotion regulation might precede the onset of psychosis. Therefore, it could be hypothesized that also individuals at ultrahigh risk (UHR) for developing psychosis experience difficulties with emotion regulation.

The aim of the current study was to investigate whether individuals at UHR for developing psychosis show abnormal brain activation during reappraisal of negative pictures.

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), we scanned 15 UHR participants and 16 matched healthy controls while performing an emotion regulation task. During this task, participants had to reappraise their negative emotion elicited by International Affective Picture System pictures. Furthermore, the reported use of reappraisal was examined with the emotion regulation questionnaire (ERQ).

individuals at UHR for psychosis showed less activation in the left ventrolateral prefrontal cortex during reappraisal compared with healthy controls. Furthermore, they reported less use of reappraisal in daily life (P=0.01; 95% CI (0.24–1.63)).

These findings indicate that dysfunctional emotion regulation may already occur in individuals at risk for psychosis. These regulation difficulties are underpinned by less ventrolateral prefrontal cortex activation, and may result in high negative affect, lower social functioning, and high rates of psychotic symptoms.
Original languageEnglish
Article number15026
Number of pages7
JournalNPJ Schizophrenia
Publication statusPublished - 23-Sep-2015

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