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Neural representation and clinically relevant moderators of individualised self-criticism in healthy subjects.

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Publication date 2014
Author Doerig Nadja, Schlumpf Yolanda, Spinelli Simona, Späti Jakub, Brakowski Janis, Quednow Boris B, Seifritz Erich, Grosse Holtforth Martin,
Project Explicit and implicit change of depression in exposure-based cognitive therapy
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Social cognitive and affective neuroscience
Volume (Issue) 9(9)
Page(s) 1333 - 40
Title of proceedings Social cognitive and affective neuroscience
DOI 10.1093/scan/nst123


Many people routinely criticise themselves. While self-criticism is largely unproblematic for most individuals, depressed patients exhibit excessive self-critical thinking, which leads to strong negative affects. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging in healthy subjects (N = 20) to investigate neural correlates and possible psychological moderators of self-critical processing. Stimuli consisted of individually selected adjectives of personally negative content and were contrasted with neutral and negative non-self-referential adjectives. We found that confrontation with self-critical material yielded neural activity in regions involved in emotions (anterior insula/hippocampus-amygdala formation) and in anterior and posterior cortical midline structures, which are associated with self-referential and autobiographical memory processing. Furthermore, contrasts revealed an extended network of bilateral frontal brain areas. We suggest that the co-activation of superior and inferior lateral frontal brain regions reflects the recruitment of a frontal top-down pathway, representing cognitive reappraisal strategies for dealing with evoked negative affects. In addition, activation of right superior frontal areas was positively associated with neuroticism and negatively associated with cognitive reappraisal. Although these findings may not be specific to negative stimuli, they support a role for clinically relevant personality traits in successful regulation of emotion during confrontation with self-critical material.