(HealthDay News) – Emotions are associated with culturally universal, topographically distinct bodily sensations, according to a study published online Dec. 30 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Lauri Nummenmaa, PhD, from Aalto University in Espoo, Finland, and colleagues conducted five experiments involving 701 participants who were shown two silhouettes of bodies alongside emotional words, stories, movies, or facial expressions. They were asked to color each bodily region whose activity was felt to be increased or decreased while viewing the stimuli. To examine whether the emotional bodily sensations were culturally universal, changes were compared for samples from Western European cultures and East Asian cultures.
The researchers found that, across experiments, different emotions were consistently associated with statistically separable bodily sensation maps. These maps were concordant across samples from West Europe (Finland) and East Asia (Taiwan). Emotion-specific activation maps were accurately distinguished by statistical classifiers, confirming that bodily topographies are independent across emotions.
“We conclude that emotional feelings are associated with discrete, yet partially overlapping maps of bodily sensations, which could be at the core of the emotional experience,” the authors write. “These results thus support models assuming that somatosensation and embodiment play critical roles in emotional processing.”