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Bodily maps of emotions

This is a fascinating study by the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Computational Science, The Brain Research Unit, O. V. Lounasmaa Laboratory, School of Science, Aalto University, FI-00076, Espoo, Finland; The Turku PET Centre, University of Turku, FI-20521, Turku, Finland; and The Human Information Processing Laboratory, School of Social Sciences and Humanities, University of Tampere, FI-33014, Tampere, Finland

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.