Emotions affect not only our mental state, but also different areas of the body. These conscious feelings help individuals fine-tune their behavior to better match the challenges of the environment. Anxiety may be experienced as pain in the chest, for example, whereas falling in love may be associated with warm sensations all over the body. It is thought that this activation of body areas gets us ready to react swiftly to dangers, or pleasurable opportunities, present in the environment around us.
Now, researchers at Aalto University (Finland) have mapped a variety of different emotions and the corresponding areas of the body that are activated. The scientists are investigating whether our emotions trigger these bodily changes, or if it is our perceptionof these bodily changes that generates the felt emotions. Their research appears in theProceedings of The National Academy of Sciences.
Team member Lauri Nummenmaa said over 700 individuals from Finland, Sweden, and Taiwan took part in the study. He also noted that the sensation patterns his team recorded were consistent across all subjects, reinforcing the notion that emotional sensation patterns have a biological basis.
“Our data highlight that consistent patterns of bodily sensations are associated with each of the six basic emotions, and that these sensations are represented in a categorical manner in the body. [They] are in line with the evidence from brain imaging and behavioral studies, highlighting categorical structure of emotion systems and neural circuits supporting emotional processing,” said Nummenmaa.
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