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Journal Article

Compassion-based emotion regulation up-regulates experienced positive affect and associated neural networks

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Engen,  Haakon G.
Department Social Neuroscience, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Singer,  Tania
Department Social Neuroscience, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Engen_Singer_2015.pdf
(Publisher version), 733KB

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Citation

Engen, H. G., & Singer, T. (2015). Compassion-based emotion regulation up-regulates experienced positive affect and associated neural networks. Social, Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 10(9), 1291-1301. doi:10.1093/scan/nsv008.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0024-BBA4-6
Abstract
Emotion regulation research has primarily focused on techniques that attenuate or modulate the impact of emotional stimuli. Recent evidence suggests that this mode regulation can be problematic in the context of regulation of emotion elicited by the suffering of others, resulting in reduced emotional connectedness. Here, we investigated the effects of an alternative emotion regulation technique based on the up-regulation of positive affect via Compassion-meditation on experiential and neural affective responses to depictions of individuals in distress, and compared these with the established emotion regulation strategy of Reappraisal. Using fMRI, we scanned 15 expert practitioners of Compassion-meditation either passively viewing, or using Compassion-meditation or Reappraisal to modulate their emotional reactions to film clips depicting people in distress. Both strategies effectively, but differentially regulated experienced affect, with Compassion primarily increasing positive and Reappraisal primarily decreasing negative affect. Imaging results showed that Compassion, relative to both passive-viewing and Reappraisal increased activation in regions involved in affiliation, positive affect and reward processing including ventral striatum and medial orbitfrontal cortex. This network was shown to be active prior to stimulus presentation, suggesting that the regulatory mechanism of Compassion is the stimulus-independent endogenous generation of positive affect.