Regulating defensive survival circuits through cognitive demand via large-scale network reorganization

Lycia D. de Voogd, Erno J. Hermans, Elizabeth A. Phelps

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Here we propose a neural framework for understanding the cognitive regulation of emotion which can serve as a heuristic framework for guiding hypotheses to improve treatment of fear-related disorders. We discuss evidence showing that cognitively demanding tasks induce a reorganization between large-scale networks. Specifically, they reduce activation in the amygdala, a key structure of the salience/defensive survival network. The notion that increasing cognitive demand may benefit treatment of fear-related disorders provides a mechanistic account of already existing techniques, such as Tetris, EMDR, and cognitive reappraisal. Future research should reveal whether systematically increasing cognitive demand leads to a stronger reorganization between the central-executive control network and the salience/defensive survival network and thereby a reduction in fear and anxiety-related symptoms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)124-129
Number of pages6
JournalCurrent Opinion in Behavioral Sciences
StatePublished - Dec 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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