Altered reward processing is a hallmark symptom of many psychiatric disorders. It has recently been shown that people are capable of down-regulating reward processing. Here, we examined whether people are capable of up-regulating emotional responses to reward-predicting stimuli. Participants passively viewed colored squares that predicted a reward or no reward, and up- or down-regulated their emotional responses to these reward-predicting stimuli by focusing on the reward meaning or the color of the squares respectively. The amplitude of the late positive potential (LPP) was taken as an objective index of regulation success. The LPP in response to reward-predicting squares was enhanced by up-regulation, suggesting that up-regulation of emotional responses to reward-predicting stimuli using a cognitive strategy is feasible. These results are highly relevant for the treatment of disorders characterized by diminished motivation, and for reward-based decision making in daily life.

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Biological Psychology
Department of Psychology

Langeslag, S.J.E, & van Strien, J.W. (2013). Up-regulation of emotional responses to reward-predicting stimuli: An ERP study. Biological Psychology, 94(1), 228–233. doi:10.1016/j.biopsycho.2013.05.021