January 6, 2014

Researchers map emotions in body

Common emotions trigger strong bodily sensations.
Common emotions trigger strong bodily sensations.

Researchers at Aalto University have revealed how emotions are experienced in the body. The researchers found that the most common emotions trigger strong bodily sensations, and the bodily maps of these sensations were different for different emotions.

For example, falling in love can trigger a warm, pleasurable feeling all over the body while being anxious may be felt as pain in the chest. The sensation patterns were, however, consistent across different West European and East Asian cultures, suggesting an underlying biological basis.  

The findings have major implications for our understanding of the functions of emotions and their bodily basis,” says assistant professor Lauri Nummenmaa from Aalto University. “On the other hand, the results help us to understand different emotional disorders and provide novel tools for their diagnosis.”

The research was carried out online, and over 700 individuals from Finland, Sweden and Taiwan took part in the study.

The researchers induced different emotional states in their Finnish and Taiwanese participants. Subsequently the participants were shown pictures of human bodies on a computer, and asked to colour the bodily regions whose activity they felt increasing or decreasing.

The research was funded by European Research Council (ERC), The Academy of Finland and the Aalto University’s aivoAALTO project.

The results were published in the scientific journal Proceedings of The National Academy of Sciences.

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