Frontal asymmetry as a mediator and moderator of emotion: An updated review

Samantha J. Reznik, John JB Allen

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

203 Scopus citations


For over 35 years, research has examined frontal alpha EEG asymmetry, discussed in terms of relative left frontal activity (rLFA) in the present review, as a concurrent and prospective marker of affective processing and psychopathology. Because rLFA may index (a) neural correlates of frontal asymmetry, or (b) psychological constructs to which frontal asymmetry relates, rLFA can advance our understanding of both neural and psychological models of emotion and psychopathology. In order to improve such understanding, the specific role of rLFA in extending or challenging existing theory must be clear to researchers and readers alike. In particular, in 2004, Coan and Allen argued that examination of rLFA as a mediator or moderator may improve our theoretical understanding of rLFA. Despite being a commonly cited paper in the field, most rLFA research today still fails to acknowledge the statistical role of rLFA in the research. The aim of the present paper is to (a) convince the reader of the importance of distinguishing rLFA as a predictor, outcome, mediator, or moderator in order to conduct theory-driven research, and (b) highlight some of the major advances in rLFA literature since the review by Coan and Allen (2004) in the framework of mediators and moderators. We selected a broad range of search terms to capture relevant rLFA research and included only those studies utilizing established methods for rLFA measurement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere12965
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2018


  • emotion
  • frontal asymmetry
  • mediator
  • moderator

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Neurology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Biological Psychiatry


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