Self‐focused cognitive emotion regulation style as associated with widespread diminished EEG fractal dimension

Xavier Bornas, Miquel Tortella‐Feliu, Maria Balle, Jordi Llabrés
Published Online:
23 Apr 2012
Volume/Issue No:
Volume 48 Issue 4

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The cognitive regulation of emotions is important for human adaptation. Self‐focused emotion regulation (ER) strategies have been linked to the development and persistence of anxiety and depression. A vast array of research has provided valuable knowledge about the neural correlates of the use of specific self‐focused ER strategies; however, the resting neural correlates of cognitive ER styles, which reflect an individual's disposition to engage in different forms of ER in order to manage distress, are largely unknown. In this study, associations between theoretically negative ER style (self‐focused or not) and the complexity (fractal dimension, FD) of the resting EEG at frontal, central, parietal, and occipital regions were investigated in 58 healthy volunteers. The Cognitive Emotion Regulation Questionnaire was used as the self‐report measure of ER style. Results showed that a diminished FD over the scalp significantly correlated with self‐focused ER style scores, even after controlling for negative affect, which has been also considered to influence the use of ER strategies. The lower the EEG FD, the higher were the self‐focused ER style scores. Correlational analyses of specific self‐focused ER strategies showed that self‐blaming and rumination were negatively associated with diminished FD of the EEG, but catastrophizing and blaming others were not. No significant correlations were found for ER strategies more focused on situation or others. Results are discussed within the self‐organized criticality theory of brain dynamics: The diminished FD of the EEG may reflect a disposition to engage in self‐focused ER strategies as people prone to ruminate and self‐blame show a less complex resting EEG activity, which may make it more difficult for them to exit their negative emotional state.

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