Friday, February 18, 2011

Suppressing emotions correlates with larger prefrontal cortical area

I'm a "keep calm and carry on" kind of guy, always suppressing my emotional reactivity in charged situations (which is probably why my colleagues said I was a good university department chair back when...). Kühn et al suggest that this might mean that the grey matter (nerve cell) volume of my dorsomedial (top, toward the middle) prefrontal cortex is a bit larger than that of those exploding around me:
There is a growing appreciation that individuals differ systematically in their use of particular emotion regulation strategies. Our aim was to examine the structural correlates of the habitual use of expressive suppression of emotions. Based on our previous research on the voluntary suppression of actions we expected this response-focused emotion regulation strategy to be associated with increased grey matter volume in the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (dmPFC). On high-resolution MRI scans of 42 college-aged healthy adults we computed optimized voxel-based-morphometry (VBM) to explore the correlation between grey matter volume and inter-individual differences in the tendency to suppress the expression of emotions assessed by means of the Emotion Regulation Questionnaire (Gross & John, 2003). We found a positive correlation between the habitual use of expressive suppression as an emotion regulation strategy and grey matter volume in the dmPFC. No other brain area showed a significant positive or negative correlation with the Emotion Regulation Questionnaire scores. The association between the suppression of expression of emotions and volume in the dmPFC supports the behavioural stability and biological foundation of the concept of this particular emotion regulation strategy within an age-homogenous sample of adults.

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