Older adults, compared to younger adults, focus on emotional well-being. While the lifespan trajectory of emotional processing and its regulation has been characterized behaviorally, few studies have investigated the underlying neural mechanisms. Here, older adults (range: 59–73 years) and younger adults (range: 19–33 years) participated in a cognitive reappraisal task during functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanning. On each trial, participants viewed positive, negative or neutral pictures and either naturally experienced the image (‘Experience’ condition) or attempted to detach themselves from the image (‘Reappraise’ condition). Across both age groups, cognitive reappraisal activated prefrontal regions similar to those reported in prior studies of emotion regulation, while emotional experience activated the bilateral amygdala. Psychophysiological interaction analyses revealed that the left inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) and amygdala demonstrated greater inverse connectivity during the ‘Reappraise’ condition relative to the ‘Experience’ condition. The only regions exhibiting significant age differences were the left IFG and the left superior temporal gyrus, for which greater regulation-related activation was observed in younger adults. Controlling for age, increased performance on measures of cognition predicted greater regulation-related decreases in amygdala activation. Thus, while older and younger adults use similar brain structures for emotion regulation and experience, the functional efficacy of those structures depends on underlying cognitive ability
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