Feel It in Your Heart?

I’m always interested in new research findings and recently came across an intriguing research study that I thought I would share with you. This research into emotions, and where we experience them in the body, was conducted by Aalto University in five separate experiments with over 700 participants from two very different cultures. The results were recently published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (US).

Credit: Aalto University, Helsinki, Finland
Credit: Aalto University, Helsinki, Finland

This picture presents the bodily topography of basic and more complex emotions associated with words. The body maps show regions whose activation increased (warm colors) or decreased (cool colors) when feeling each emotion.

The study concluded that emotional feelings are associated with discrete, but partially overlapping (maps of) bodily sensations, which could be at the core of the emotional experience. Unraveling of the subjective bodily sensations associated with human emotions may help us to better understand emotional processing, including emotional disorders.

Definitely interesting findings. You can read the entire report of the study here (the pdf takes a while to load).

34 thoughts on “Feel It in Your Heart?”

    1. I am not an expert, but after reading the whole study, I’d interpret the blue color to mean that people who experienced depression had a decreased level of bodily sensations. Red color in this study would represent increased sensations due to an emotion. I think we need to remember that this study did not measure pain as such.

  1. this is fascinating … more so to me as I work with a form of yoga nidra which involves body sensing, and specifically feeling where and how emotions and thoughts affect the body … thanks tiny 🙂

  2. It’s interesting to see how well the observed physiology matches up to our own sensory information. Depression–you’re just cold and numb and the scan shows that in the depressed temperatures at the body extremities. Anger–you’re hot and flushed in the upper body (“hot headed”) and so on. I particularly appreciated happiness 🙂

    1. Me too! Happiness is illuminating! I’ve been looking at these body maps carefully and they really match well the sensations I too experience.

Would love to hear your thoughts!

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