That’s Why They’re Called Feelings

That's Why They're Called Feelings

Tim Bergling
Health24News, June 2001

WASHINGTON — Maybe a broken heart really does hurt. A new study suggests evidence for an old idea … that emotions aren’t just expressions of the mind, but rather a series of palpable sensations.

Researchers at the University of Iowa College of Medicine looked at brain scans of 41 test subjects who were recalling emotional events indicated activity in areas of the brain not normally associated with emotions, but rather with monitoring body function. The concept, which has been around for more than a century, suggests emotions trigger certain changes in the body, which the brain then monitors and interprets according to the stimulus.

According to researchers, the subjects “recalled and re-experienced personal life episodes marked by sadness, happiness, anger or fear,” while researchers used brain scans and other sensors to monitor the physical activity produced by those sensations. The scans appeared to demonstrate that each emotion caused a different pattern of brain activity; the study results seem to lend credence to the idea that emotions, far from being a subjective entity, have a physiological basis.

Lead researcher, Antonio Damasio, wrote a book in 1999 titled “The Feeling of What Happens” which expands on the old idea. The brain scan results, he says, support the premise with hard data. Researchers suggest the study may also lead to better drugs for treating mental conditions like depression.


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