Neurobiological correlates of coping through emotional approach

Sarah L. Master, David M. Amodio, Annette L. Stanton, Cindy M. Yee, Clayton J. Hilmert, Shelley E. Taylor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This investigation considered possible health-related neurobiological processes associated with "emotional approach coping" (EAC), or intentional efforts to identify, process, and express emotions surrounding stressors. It was hypothesized that higher dispositional use of EAC strategies would be related to neural activity indicative of greater trait approach motivational orientation and to lower proinflammatory cytokine and cortisol responses to stress. To assess these relationships, 46 healthy participants completed a questionnaire assessing the two components of EAC (i.e., emotional processing and emotional expression), and their resting frontal cortical asymmetry was measured using electroencephalography (EEG). A subset (N = 22) of these participants' levels of the soluble receptor for tumor necrosis factor-alpha (sTNFαRII), interleukin-6 (IL-6), and cortisol (all obtained from oral fluids) were also assessed before and after exposure to an acute laboratory stressor. Consistent with predictions, higher reported levels of emotional expression were significantly associated with greater relative left-sided frontal EEG asymmetry, indicative of greater trait approach motivation. Additionally, people who scored higher on EAC, particularly the emotional processing component, tended to show a less-pronounced TNF-α stress response. EAC was unrelated to levels of IL-6 and cortisol. Greater left-sided frontal EEG asymmetry was significantly related to lower baseline levels of IL-6 and to lower stress-related levels of sTNFαRII, and was marginally related to lower stress-related levels of IL-6. The findings suggest that the salubrious effects of EAC strategies for managing stress may be linked to an approach-oriented neurocognitive profile and to well-regulated proinflammatory cytokine responses to stress.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)27-35
Number of pages9
JournalBrain, Behavior, and Immunity
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2009


  • Approach motivation
  • Cortisol
  • EEG
  • Emotional approach coping
  • Frontal asymmetry
  • IL-6
  • Proinflammatory cytokines
  • Trier social stress test
  • sTNFαRII

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


Dive into the research topics of 'Neurobiological correlates of coping through emotional approach'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this