Emotion regulation is hypothesized to be mediated by the interactions between emotional reactivity and regulation networks during the dynamic unfolding of the emotional episode. Yet, it remains unclear how to delineate the effective relationships between these networks. In this study, we examined the aforementioned networks’ information flow hierarchy during viewing of an anger provoking movie excerpt. Anger regulation is particularly essential for averting individuals from aggression and violence, thus improving prosocial behavior. Using subjective ratings of anger intensity we differentiated between low and high anger periods of the film. We then applied the Dependency Network Analysis (DEP NA), a newly developed graph theory method to quantify networks’ node importance during the two anger periods. The DEP NA analysis revealed that the impact of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) was higher in the high anger condition, particularly within the regulation network and on the connections between the reactivity and regulation networks. We further showed that higher levels of vmPFC impact on the regulation network were associated with lower subjective anger intensity during the high-anger cinematic period, and lower trait anger levels. Supporting and replicating previous findings, these results emphasize the previously acknowledged central role of vmPFC in modulating negative affect. We further show that the impact of the vmPFC relies on its correlational influence on the connectivity between reactivity and regulation networks. More importantly, the hierarchy network analysis revealed a link between connectivity patterns of the vmPFC and individual differences in anger reactivity and trait, suggesting its potential therapeutic role.
- Emotion regulation
- Graph theory network analysis
- Ventromedial prefrontal cortex