Trait neuroticism and emotion neurocircuitry: Functional magnetic resonance imaging evidence for a failure in emotion regulation

Merav H. Silverman, Sylia Wilson, Ian S. Ramsay, Ruskin H Hunt, Kathleen M. Thomas, Robert F. Krueger, William G. Iacono

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Though theory suggests that individual differences in neuroticism (a tendency to experience negative emotions) would be associated with altered functioning of the amygdala (which has been linked with emotionality and emotion dysregulation in childhood, adolescence, and adulthood), results of functional neuroimaging studies have been contradictory and inconclusive. We aimed to clarify the relationship between neuroticism and three hypothesized neural markers derived from functional magnetic resonance imaging during negative emotion face processing: amygdala activation, amygdala habituation, and amygdala-prefrontal connectivity, each of which plays an important role in the experience and regulation of emotions. We used general linear models to examine the relationship between trait neuroticism and the hypothesized neural markers in a large sample of over 500 young adults. Although neuroticism was not significantly associated with magnitude of amygdala activation or amygdala habituation, it was associated with amygdala-ventromedial prefrontal cortex connectivity, which has been implicated in emotion regulation. Results suggest that trait neuroticism may represent a failure in top-down control and regulation of emotional reactions, rather than overactive emotion generation processes, per se. These findings suggest that neuroticism, which has been associated with increased rates of transdiagnostic psychopathology, may represent a failure in the inhibitory neurocircuitry associated with emotion regulation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1085-1099
Number of pages15
JournalDevelopment and psychopathology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 1 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2019.


  • amygdala
  • emotion dysregulation
  • functional magnetic resonance imaging
  • negative emotion processing
  • neuroticism


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