The role of the subgenual anterior cingulate cortex in dorsomedial prefrontal–amygdala neural circuitry during positive‐social emotion regulation
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Positive-social emotions mediate one's cognitive performance, mood, well-being, and social bonds, and represent a critical variable within therapeutic settings. It has been shown that the upregulation of positive emotions in social situations is associated with increased top-down signals that stem from the prefrontal cortices (PFC) which modulate bottom-up emotional responses in the amygdala. However, it remains unclear if positive-social emotion upregulation of the amygdala occurs directly through the dorsomedial PFC (dmPFC) or indirectly linking the bilateral amygdala with the dmPFC via the subgenual anterior cingulate cortex (sgACC), an area which typically serves as a gatekeeper between cognitive and emotion networks. We performed functional MRI (fMRI) experiments with and without effortful positive-social emotion upregulation to demonstrate the functional architecture of a network involving the amygdala, the dmPFC, and the sgACC. We found that effortful positive-social emotion upregulation was associated with an increase in top-down connectivity from the dmPFC on the amygdala via both direct and indirect connections with the sgACC. Conversely, we found that emotion processes without effortful regulation increased network modulation by the sgACC and amygdala. We also found that more anxious individuals with a greater tendency to suppress emotions and intrusive thoughts, were likely to display decreased amygdala, dmPFC, and sgACC activity and stronger connectivity strength from the sgACC onto the left amygdala during effortful emotion upregulation. Analyzed brain network suggests a more general role of the sgACC in cognitive control and sheds light on neurobiological informed treatment interventions.
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