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Finnish researchers map how emotions are expressed physically in human bodies

Wednesday, January 29, 2014 by: Ethan A. Huff, staff writer
Tags: emotions, human bodies, physical expression

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(NaturalNews) New research published in the journal Proceedings of The National Academy of Sciences of The United States of America (PNAS) provides a solid basis for understanding how our bodies physically react to various emotional states. Scientists from Aalto University in Finland found that the human body lights up differently on a heat map for each type of emotion, illustrating for the first time how emotions play a definitive role in physical health.

When a person is angry, according to the study, the upper half of his or her body from the vital organs up, as well as the entire length of the arms, experiences major bodily sensations. A depressed person, on the other hand, experiences no significant bodily sensations and actually feels a decrease in sensation from the waist down and all along the arms. And a happy person, as you might imagine, generally feels warm sensations all over the body.

Part of an ongoing study looking at the connection between emotions and physical sensations, the study so far includes data on more than 700 individuals hailing mostly from Scandinavia and Taiwan. Each participant reportedly filled out a questionnaire online, which included pictures of human bodies as outlines. As the participants went through their daily lives, they were asked to highlight the sensations they felt in various emotional states by coloring in these pictures.

After gathering all the resultant data, the team from Aalto put together a diagram illustrating the changes that a person's body goes through when they are happy, sad, surprised, anxious or in love. From this, it was determined that certain bodily changes are directly associated with certain emotions, and the recognition of these bodily changes by an individual can further affect conscious emotional sensations.

"Emotions adjust not only our mental, but also our bodily states... prepar[ing] us to react swiftly to the dangers, but also to the opportunities such as pleasurable social interactions present in the environment," reads an announcement about the findings published by Aalto. "The findings have major implications for our understanding of the functions of emotions and their bodily basis."

Emotion-driven bodily sensations are deeply rooted in human biology

The findings also reveal something amazing about human nature and biology -- mainly that human beings of all descents share a common physiology when it comes to how our emotions affect our physical states. Participants from both Western Europe and East Asia experienced common physical changes that suggest an inherently biological basis for how our bodies react to emotions.

"The sensation patterns were... consistent across different West European and East Asian cultures, highlighting that emotions and their corresponding bodily sensation patterns have a biological basis," adds the announcement.

With this in mind, researchers hope to use the results to better understand mood disorders such as anxiety and depression, both of which have their own distinct physical expressions. By mapping the typical pathways through which physical sensations are brought about in conjunction with these and other similar emotions, scientists may one day be able to establish solid biomarkers with which to better identify and assess emotional disorders.

"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," reads the study discussion.

To view the full study as published in PNAS, be sure to visit:

You can also view a PDF image of the different emotions and how they affect the body physically by visiting:

Sources for this article include:





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