Regional gray matter correlates of perceived emotional intelligence

Nancy S. Koven, Robert M. Roth, Matthew A. Garlinghouse, Laura A. Flashman, Andrew J. Saykin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Coping with stressful life events requires a degree of skill in the ability to attend to, comprehend, label, communicate and regulate emotions. Individuals vary in the extent to which these skills are developed, with the term 'alexithymia' often applied in the clinical and personality literature to those individuals most compromised in these skills. Although a frontal lobe model of alexithymia is emerging, it is unclear whether such a model satisfactorily reflects brain-related patterns associated with perceived emotional intelligence at the facet level. To determine whether these trait meta-mood facets (ability to attend to, have clarity of and repair emotions) have unique gray matter volume correlates, a voxel-based morphometry study was conducted in 30 healthy adults using the Trait Meta Mood Scale while co-varying for potentially confounding sociodemographic variables. Poorer Attention to Emotion was associated with lower gray matter volume in clusters distributed primarily throughout the frontal lobe, with peak correlation in the left medial frontal gyrus. Poorer Mood Repair was related to lower gray matter volume in three clusters in frontal and inferior parietal areas, with peak correlation in the left anterior cingulate. No significant volumetric correlations emerged for the Clarity of Emotion facet. We discuss the localization of these areas in the context of cortical circuits known to be involved in processes of self-reflection and cognitive control.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbernsq084
Pages (from-to)582-590
Number of pages9
JournalSocial cognitive and affective neuroscience
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Alexithymia
  • Neuroimaging
  • Perceived emotional intelligence
  • Trait meta-mood
  • Voxel based morphometry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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