Emotion Regulation in Young Adults with Family History of Harmful Alcohol Use: A fMRI Study

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College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, Psychology


Emotion regulation, Family history, Alcohol use, Substance use, Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)



Alcohol use disorder is associated with difficulties in emotion regulation and cognitive reappraisal. Family history of harmful alcohol use increases risk of substance use disorders, but no studies have examined whether family history is associated with altered neural activation during cognitive reappraisal relative to passive viewing of negative images in a sample of young adults without current substance use disorders.


Participants (N = 75 with positive [n = 31] or negative [n = 44] family histories of harmful alcohol use) completed the emotion regulation task during an MRI scan, and the Emotion Regulation Questionnaire to assess use of emotion regulation and suppression strategies. Whole-brain analyses and amygdala region of interest analyses using linear mixed-effects models assessed family history group and cue effects on neural activation during the task.


The groups did not differ on trait reappraisal, suppression, or negative emotion following reappraisal. In general, group effects in whole-brain and amygdala activation during the cognitive reappraisal contrast indicated small effect sizes (2.2% of voxels had d>0.20) that were not significantly different. Participants with positive family histories engaged the right middle and superior frontal gyri to a greater extent than participants with negative family histories during the decrease-negative cue (t = 4.14, p = .001).


For at-risk young adults without current harmful substance use, family history of harmful alcohol use does not appear to be associated with disrupted emotion regulation when instructed to apply cognitive reappraisal. Reappraisal may be a feasible therapeutic target for those who develop a substance use disorder with associated emotion dysregulation.

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Copyright is held by Elsevier. User is responsible for all copyright compliance. This article was originally published as:

Kirk-Provencher, K. T., Penner, A. E., McRae, K., & Gowin, J. L. (2023). Emotion regulation in young adults with family history of harmful alcohol use: A fMRI study. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 243, 109752. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2022.109752

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English (eng)

Publication Title

Drug and Alcohol Dependence



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