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Bodily maps of emotions

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Abstract

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

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Nummenmaa, L., Glerean, E., Hari, R., & Hietanen, J. K. (2014). Bodily maps of emotions. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 111(2), 646–651. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1321664111

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