Understanding the benefits of extrinsic emotion regulation in depression

Atheer Massarwe, Noga Cohen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Depression is a serious psychiatric illness that negatively affects people’s feelings, thoughts, and actions. Providing emotion regulation support to others, also termed Extrinsic Emotion Regulation (EER), reduces depressive symptoms such as perseverative thinking and negative mood. In this conceptual review paper, we argue that EER may be especially beneficial for individuals with depression because it enhances the cognitive and affective processes known to be impaired in depression. Behavioral studies have shown that EER recruits processes related to cognitive empathy, intrinsic emotion regulation (IER), and reward, all impaired in depression. Neuroimaging data support these findings by showing that EER recruits brain regions related to these three processes, such as the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex which is associated with IER, the ventral striatum, which is associated with reward-related processes, and medial frontal regions related to cognitive empathy. This conceptual review paper sheds light on the mechanisms underlying the effectiveness of EER for individuals with depression and therefore offers novel avenues for treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1120653
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
StatePublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2023 Massarwe and Cohen.


  • depression
  • empathy
  • extrinsic emotion regulation
  • intrinsic emotion regulation
  • neuroimaging
  • reward

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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