The cognitive and neurophysiological basis of emotion dysregulation in bipolar disorder

Melissa J. Green*, Catherine M. Cahill, Gin S. Malhi

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    173 Citations (Scopus)


    Background: Bipolar disorder is characterized by fluctuating affect and mood, and is associated with specific neurocognitive deficits consistent with neuropathology in cerebello-striatal-prefrontal neural networks. This network is critical for emotion regulation. Methods: Relevant literature was located via PsychINFO and Medline to provide a comprehensive review of cognitive and neural mechanisms of social information processing and affect generation in bipolar disorder (BD) in the context of recent research examining the neural mechanisms of emotion regulation via conscious cognitive strategies. Results: Emotion regulation relies on synergy within brainstem, limbic and cortical processes that promote the adaptive generation and regulation of affect, with prefrontal and cingulate regions inhibiting sub-cortical and cortical emotion processing systems in the cognitive control of emotional experience. Current evidence of structural and functional brain abnormalities in BD alongside aberrant social cognition, affect generation, and neuropsychological function are consistent with a model of emotion dysregulation to account for the symptoms of BD. Limitations: A precise understanding of emotion dysregulation in BD is currently limited by a paucity of longitudinal research directly examining these issues. Conclusion: Aberrant emotion perception alongside increased limbic activity during emotion perception and affect generation in BD, alongside impaired executive control associated with aberrant neurophysiological abnormalities in sub-regions of the prefrontal cortex, is consistent with impaired emotion regulation. We propose a cognitive and neurophysiological framework within which the variations of mood that are characteristic of BD can be understood as specific impairments of the cognitive control of emotion.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)29-42
    Number of pages14
    JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
    Issue number1-3
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2007


    • Affect generation
    • Bipolar disorder
    • Cognitive control
    • Emotion perception
    • Emotion regulation
    • Neuroimaging


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