Neuropsychopharmacology Reviews

Neuropsychopharmacology (2010) 35, 136–146; doi:10.1038/npp.2009.121; published online 26 August 2009

Changing Fear: The Neurocircuitry of Emotion Regulation

Catherine A Hartley1 and Elizabeth A Phelps2

  1. 1Department of Psychology, New York University, New York, NY, USA
  2. 2Departments of Psychology and Neural Science, New York University, New York, NY, USA

Correspondence: Dr E Phelps, Departments of Psychology and Neural Science, New York University, NYU Medical Center, 6 Wash Pl, 863, New York, NY 10003, USA. Tel: +1 212 998 8337, Fax: +1 212 995 4349, E-mail:

Received 19 May 2009; Revised 16 July 2009; Accepted 20 July 2009; Published online 26 August 2009.



The ability to alter emotional responses as circumstances change is a critical component of normal adaptive behavior and is often impaired in psychological disorders. In this review, we discuss four emotional regulation techniques that have been investigated as means to control fear: extinction, cognitive regulation, active coping, and reconsolidation. For each technique, we review what is known about the underlying neural systems, combining findings from animal models and human neuroscience. The current evidence suggests that these different means of regulating fear depend on both overlapping and distinct components of a fear circuitry.


emotion regulation, fear conditioning, extinction, amygdala



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