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16-03-2018 | Original Article | Uitgave 1/2019 Open Access

Cognitive Therapy and Research 1/2019

Cognitive Reappraisal and Expressive Suppression of Negative Emotion in Combat-Related Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Functional MRI Study

Cognitive Therapy and Research > Uitgave 1/2019
Oisin Butler, Gerd Willmund, Tobias Gleich, Peter Zimmermann, Ulman Lindenberger, Jürgen Gallinat, Simone Kühn
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The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s10608-018-9905-x) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Oisin Butler and Gerd Willmund have contributed equally to the work.


Difficulties in the regulation of emotion are hypothesized to play a key role in the development and maintenance of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The current study used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to assess neural activity during task preparation and image presentation during different emotion regulation strategies, cognitive reappraisal and expressive suppression, in PTSD. Patients with combat-related PTSD (n = 18) and combat-exposed controls (n = 27) were instructed to feel, reappraise or suppress their emotional response prior to viewing combat-related images during fMRI, while also providing arousal ratings. In the reappraise condition, patients showed lower medial prefrontal neural activity during task preparation and higher prefrontal neural activity during image presentation, compared with controls. No difference in neural activity was observed between the groups during the feel or suppress conditions, although patients rated images as more arousing than controls across all three conditions. By distinguishing between preparation and active regulation, and between reappraisal and suppression, the current findings reveal greater complexity regarding the dynamics of emotion regulation in PTSD and have implications for our understanding of the etiology and treatment of PTSD.

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