Alteration in negative emotional regulation associated with childhood abuse: fMRI study
Seungho Kim1, Sang Won Lee2, Kyungeun Jang1, Hyunsil Cha1, Heajung Choi1, Eunji Kim1, Jiung Yang1, Jinsu Park1, Huijin Song3, Hui Joong Lee4, Moon Jung Hwang5, Seung Jae Lee2, and Yongmin Chang1,6

1Department of Medical & Biological Engineering, Kyungpook National University, Daegu, Korea, Republic of, 2Department of Psychiatry, Kyungpook National University Hospital, Daegu, Korea, Republic of, 3Institute of Biomedical Engineering Research, Kyungpook National University, Daegu, Korea, Republic of, 4Department of Radiology, Kyungpook National University, Daegu, Korea, Republic of, 5GE Healthcare, Seoul, Korea, Republic of, 6Department of Radiology and Molecular Medicine, Kyungpook National University, Daegu, Korea, Republic of


We assessed negative emotional regulation in young adults who experienced childhood abuse. We investigated a relationship between psychological data and brain activation during emotion regulation task. The ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) showed significant correlation with the degree of childhood abuse in negative emotion task.


The emotion regulation task (ERT) is designed to elicit both neutral and negative emotional states in order to examine participants’ abilities to control negative emotions in real-time. Several behavioural studies with ERT have been investigated the emotion dysregulation due to childhood abuse1. However, no fMRI study is available. Therefore, we aimed to investigate the neural correlates related to emotional regulation in childhood abuse by using fMRI.

Subjects and Methods

Twenty-seven participants with childhood abuse experience were recruited for this study. The mean age of all subjects was 25.22±2.69 years and right-handed in accordance with the Edinburgh handedness scale. All participants signed informed consent forms and the study protocol were approved by the Institutional Review Board at Kyungpook National University. Participants were tested the physical abuse score (PA) and the psychometric properties of the difficulties in emotion regulation scale (DERS). During the fMRI acquisition, participants were asked to judge how negative feeling while they view neutral or negative pictures that separated in the international affective picture system (IAPS). All participants evaluated the degree of negative feelings on a four-point scales (1, very little; 4, very much) using MR Convertible button box. Functional image data were obtained using 3.0T GE 750W scanner with 24ch head coil (EPI, TR = 2000ms, TE = 30ms, FOV = 23cm, acquisition matrix = 64 X 64, no gap). The 3D T1-weighted fast spoiled gradient echo was used for structural imaging acquisition. The SPM12 and SPSS were used for fMRI data processing and statistical analysis. One-sample t-test was applied for brain activation of each condition in within group. Each activation map is thresholded at P < 0.05, false discovery rate (FDR) corrected for multiple comparisons across the whole brain. The beta value of vmPFC was extracted using REX toolbox to investigate a relationship with the psychological data.

Results and Discussion

Behavior performance of ERT showed the higher score in negative emotion task than neutral emotion task (Figure 1). In one sample t-test, the vmPFC showed significant increasing activation in the negative emotion task than neutral emotion task (Figure 2). The vmPFC had a positive correlation with PA, a negative correlation with DERS (Figure 3). The negative correlation of the vmPFC with the DERS suggests that the vmPFC is related to autonomous emotional regulation. Furthermore, the positive correlation between vmPFC and PA might suggest that childhood abuse experience is related to regulating emotion of the vmPFC in negative emotional stimulation. Based on our findings, this study suggests that adults who have more experience with childhood abuse regulate emotion by strengthening vmPFC in negative emotional stimulation.


We found that the more childhood abuse was experienced, the more vmPFC was involved in negative emotional regulation.


No acknowledgement found.


1. Burns, E. E., Jackson, J. L., Harding, H. G, 2010. Child Maltreatment, Emotion Regulation, and Posttraumatic Stress: The Impact of Emotional Abuse. Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma 19, 801-819.


Figure 1. Behavior performance during ERT task

Figure 2. The activation of one-sample t-test in negative – neutral condition (P<0.05, FDR-corrected)

Figure 3. The correlation between beta value of vmPFC with (a) DERS and (b) PA

Proc. Intl. Soc. Mag. Reson. Med. 27 (2019)