Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2009

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Steven Anderson

First Committee Member

Daniel Tranel

Second Committee Member

Martin Cassell

Third Committee Member

Grazyna Kochanska

Fourth Committee Member

Don Fowles

Fifth Committee Member

David Rudrauf


Emotion regulation is an ability that humans engage in throughout their lives. Disruption in this ability due to brain injury can have devastating consequences on the ability to function adaptively in complex environments. It has been observed that damage involving certain areas of the prefrontal cortex (PFC), including the ventromedial PFC (VMPFC), can result in long-lasting impairments in real-world emotional and behavioral functioning. However, the specific areas of the PFC that are critical for the ability to regulate emotion have not been identified. The primary aims of this project were to identify areas of the PFC that are important for the regulation of emotion, and to determine the degree to which impairments in emotion regulation may contribute to real-world dysfunction following damage to the PFC. To address these aims, emotional regulation and real-world functioning were examined in a sample of patients with focal PFC lesions.

Damage involving the VMPFC appeared to have limited impact on the ability to voluntarily regulate emotion. It was also observed that damage to PFC regions outside the VMPFC was associated with reduced ability to overcome distraction by salient emotional stimuli, compared to VMPFC damage. However, analyses of lesion volume showed that more extensive damage involving the VMPFC was associated with greater emotional distraction, suggesting one form of emotional dysregulation that may result from damage to the VMPFC. In addition, it was found that brain damage in general was associated with impairments in real-world functioning, though PFC damage was not associated with more striking impairments compared to damage outside the PFC. These findings suggest that damage involving certain PFC regions can disrupt the ability to effectively regulate emotion. The results from this project also suggest that laboratory measures of emotion regulation may help in predicting real-world dysfunction following brain damage.


Brain Damage, Emotion, Prefrontal Cortex, Psychophysiology


vii, 101 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 91-101).


Copyright 2009 David Matthew Driscoll