Emotions can alter kinesthetic acuity

Neurosci Lett. 2019 Feb 16;694:99-103. doi: 10.1016/j.neulet.2018.11.053. Epub 2018 Nov 27.


Kinesthesia, the perception of our own body movements, relies on the integration of proprioceptive information arising mostly from muscle spindles, which are sensory receptors in skeletal muscles. We recently showed that emotions alter the proprioceptive messages from such muscle afferents, making them more sensitive to muscle lengthening when participants were listening sad music. Presently, we investigated whether these changes in proprioceptive feedback relating to emotional state may affect the perception of limb movements. Kinesthetic acuity was tested in 20 healthy, young adults by imposing ramp-and-hold movements that consisted of either plantar flexion or dorsiflexion movements of the ankle at 0.04°/s, or no movement. These were imposed during four emotional conditions (listening to neutral, sad, or happy music, or no music). The participants were asked to relax and focus on music (or nothing), and then they shifted their focus to the direction of an incoming movement. Once this had finished, they were asked its direction. Muscle activity, heart rate, and electrodermal activity were recorded during each trial, and after each music condition the participants rated the emotion felt on a visual analog scale. The rating of the emotional content of the music corroborated with changes in physiological measures. Kinesthetic acuity was also affected by the emotional state and found to be larger during the sad condition, as compared to the no music or neutral conditions. We conclude that emotion can shape our perception of movements, which we show here where feeling sadness significantly increase our kinesthetic acuity, this may be functionally relevant for the preparation of appropriate behavioral responses.

Keywords: Acuity; Emotions; Kinesthesia; Movement sense; Muscle afferents; Proprioception.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Electromyography
  • Emotions*
  • Female
  • Galvanic Skin Response
  • Heart Rate
  • Humans
  • Kinesthesis*
  • Male
  • Movement*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Music
  • Young Adult