Accounts of the effect of emotional information on behavioral response and current models of emotion regulation are based on two opposed but interacting processes: automatic bottom-up processes (triggered by emotionally arousing stimuli) and top-down control processes (mapped to prefrontal cortical areas). Data on the existence of a third attentional network operating without recourse to limited-capacity processes but influencing response raise the issue of how it is integrated in emotion regulation. We summarize here data from attention to emotion, voluntary emotion regulation, and on the origin of biases against negative content suggesting that the ventral network is modulated by exposure to emotional stimuli when the task does not constrain the handling of emotional content. In the parietal lobes, preferential activation of ventral areas associated with “bottom-up” attention by ventral network theorists is strongest in studies of cognitive reappraisal. In conditions when no explicit instruction is given to change one's response to emotional stimuli, control of emotionally arousing stimuli is observed without concomitant activation of the dorsal attentional network, replaced by a shift of activation toward ventral areas. In contrast, in studies where emotional stimuli are placed in the role of distracter, the observed deactivation of these ventral semantic association areas is consistent with the existence of proactive control on the role emotional representations are allowed to take in generating response. It is here argued that attentional orienting mechanisms located in the ventral network constitute an intermediate kind of process, with features only partially in common with effortful and automatic processes, which plays an important role in handling emotion by conveying the influence of semantic networks, with which the ventral network is co-localized. Current neuroimaging work in emotion regulation has neglected this system by focusing on a bottom-up/top-down dichotomy of attentional control.
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