Skip to main page content
Access keys NCBI Homepage MyNCBI Homepage Main Content Main Navigation
. 2014 Jan 14;111(2):646-51.
doi: 10.1073/pnas.1321664111. Epub 2013 Dec 30.

Bodily Maps of Emotions

Affiliations
Free PMC article

Bodily Maps of Emotions

Lauri Nummenmaa et al. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. .
Free PMC article

Abstract

Emotions are often felt in the body, and somatosensory feedback has been proposed to trigger conscious emotional experiences. Here we reveal maps of bodily sensations associated with different emotions using a unique topographical self-report method. In five experiments, participants (n = 701) were shown two silhouettes of bodies alongside emotional words, stories, movies, or facial expressions. They were asked to color the bodily regions whose activity they felt increasing or decreasing while viewing each stimulus. Different emotions were consistently associated with statistically separable bodily sensation maps across experiments. These maps were concordant across West European and East Asian samples. Statistical classifiers distinguished emotion-specific activation maps accurately, confirming independence of topographies across emotions. We propose that emotions are represented in the somatosensory system as culturally universal categorical somatotopic maps. Perception of these emotion-triggered bodily changes may play a key role in generating consciously felt emotions.

Keywords: embodiment; feelings; somatosensation.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Figures

Fig. 1.
Fig. 1.
The emBODY tool. Participants colored the initially blank body regions (A) whose activity they felt increasing (left body) and decreasing (right body) during emotions. Subjectwise activation–deactivation data (B) were stored as integers, with the whole body being represented by 50,364 data points. Activation and deactivation maps were subsequently combined (C) for statistical analysis.
Fig. 2.
Fig. 2.
Bodily topography of basic (Upper) and nonbasic (Lower) emotions associated with words. The body maps show regions whose activation increased (warm colors) or decreased (cool colors) when feeling each emotion. (P < 0.05 FDR corrected; t > 1.94). The colorbar indicates the t-statistic range.
Fig. 3.
Fig. 3.
Confusion matrices for the complete classification scheme across experiments.
Fig. 4.
Fig. 4.
Hierarchical structure of the similarity between bodily topographies associated with emotion words in experiment 1 (Upper) and basic emotions across experiments with word (W), story (S), movie (M), and Face (F) stimuli (Lower).

Similar articles

See all similar articles

Cited by 63 articles

See all "Cited by" articles

Publication types

LinkOut - more resources

Feedback