Double dissociation: Circadian off-peak times increase emotional reactivity; aging impairs emotion regulation via reappraisal.

Tucker, Adrienne M.; Feuerstein, Rebecca; Mende-Siedlecki, Peter; Ochsner, Kevin N.; Stern, Yaakov

This study explored how the effectiveness of specific emotion regulation strategies might be influenced by aging and by time of day, given that in older age the circadian peak in cognitive performance is earlier in the day. We compared the benefit gained by 40 older (60–78 years; 20 women) and 40 younger (18–30 years; 20 women) adults during either on-peak or off-peak circadian times on 2 specific types of cognitive emotion regulation strategies: distraction and reappraisal. Participants rated their negative emotional responses to negative and neutral images under 3 conditions: a baseline nonregulation condition, a distraction condition involving a working memory task, and a reappraisal condition that involved reinterpreting the situation displayed using specific preselected strategies. First, as hypothesized, there was a crossover interaction such that participants in each age group reported more negative reactivity at their off-peak time of day. Second, a double dissociation was observed as circadian rhythms affected only negative reactivity —with reactivity highest at off-peak times—and aging diminished reappraisal but not distraction ability or reactivity. These findings add to growing evidence that understanding the effects of aging on emotion and emotion regulation depends on taking both time of day and type of regulatory strategy into account.



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February 11, 2022