Mindfulness, an attentive non-judgmental focus on "here and now" experiences, has been incorporated into various cognitive behavioral therapy approaches and beneficial effects have been demonstrated. Recently, mindfulness has also been identified as a potentially effective emotion regulation strategy. On the other hand, emotion suppression, which refers to trying to avoid or escape from experiencing and being aware of one's own emotions, has been identified as a potentially maladaptive strategy. Previous studies suggest that both strategies can decrease affective responses to emotional stimuli. They would, however, be expected to provide regulation through different top-down modulation systems. The present study was aimed at elucidating the different neural systems underlying emotion regulation via mindfulness and emotion suppression approaches. Twenty-one healthy participants used the two types of strategy in response to emotional visual stimuli while functional magnetic resonance imaging was conducted. Both strategies attenuated amygdala responses to emotional triggers, but the pathways to regulation differed across the two. A mindful approach appears to regulate amygdala functioning via functional connectivity from the medial prefrontal cortex, while suppression uses connectivity with other regions, including the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Thus, the two types of emotion regulation recruit different top-down modulation processes localized at prefrontal areas. These different pathways are discussed.
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