Although prefrontal cortex has been implicated in the cognitive regulation of emotion, the cortical-subcortical interactions that mediate this ability remain poorly understood. To address this issue, we identified a right ventrolateral prefrontal region (vlPFC) whose activity correlated with reduced negative emotional experience during cognitive reappraisal of aversive images. We then applied a pathway-mapping analysis on subcortical regions to locate mediators of the association between vlPFC activity and reappraisal success (i.e., reductions in reported emotion). Results identified two separable pathways that together explained approximately 50% of the reported variance in self-reported emotion: (1) a path through nucleus accumbens that predicted greater reappraisal success, and (2) a path through ventral amygdala that predicted reduced reappraisal success (i.e., more negative emotion). These results provide direct evidence that vlPFC is involved in both the generation and regulation of emotion through different subcortical pathways, suggesting a general role for this region in appraisal processes.
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