Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Our Emotional Brains: Both Sides Process The Language Of Feelings, With The Left Side Labeling The 'What' And The Right Side Processing The 'How'

Date:
January 13, 2003
Source:
American Psychological Association
Summary:
Both sides of the brain play a role in processing emotional communication, with the right side stepping in when we focus not on the "what" of an emotional message but rather on how it feels. By studying blood flow velocity to each side of the brain, Belgian psychologists have opened a window onto the richness and complexity of human emotional communication.

WASHINGTON -- Both sides of the brain play a role in processing emotional communication, with the right side stepping in when we focus not on the "what" of an emotional message but rather on how it feels. By studying blood flow velocity to each side of the brain, Belgian psychologists have opened a window onto the richness and complexity of human emotional communication. Their research appears in the January 2003 issue of Neuropsychology, published by the American Psychological Association (APA).

At Ghent University, Guy Vingerhoets, Ph.D., Celine Berckmoes, M.S., and Nathalie Stroobant, M.S., knew that the left brain is dominant for language, and the right brain is dominant for emotion. But what happens when the brain is faced with emotional language? To find out, the researchers used Transcranial Doppler Ultrasonography (ultrasound), an inexpensive, non-invasive and patient-friendly way to measure blood-flow velocity in the brain's left and right middle cerebral arteries -- an indicator of activity level because neurons, to work, need blood-borne glucose and oxygen.

The researchers asked 36 participants, hooked up to ultrasound monitors, to identify the emotion conveyed in dozens of pre-recorded sentences. Vingerhoets et al. asked participants either to focus on the actual words (semantics) of the sentences, or to focus on the emotion conveyed by how they were spoken, in tone and intensity (prosody).

Each sentences had just one of four basic emotional meanings (happy, sad, angry or afraid) or a neutral semantic meaning. For example, "He really enjoys that funny cartoon" (happy), "The little girl lost both her parents" (sad), "Panic broke out in that dark tunnel" (fear), or "Always store disc in its protective case" (neutral). Actors spoke the sentences with either emotional or neutral prosody.

As they listened to the sentences, participants pointed to the appropriate emotion on a card listing them, using both fingers to minimize setting off one side of the brain only (because body movement on one side is controlled by the brain's opposite side). Vingerhoets et al. found that when participants were asked to focus on what was said -- semantics -- blood flow velocity went up significantly on the left side of the brain. When participants shifted attention to how it was said -- tone of voice, whether happy, sad, anxious, angry or neutral -- velocity also went up markedly on the right side of the brain. However, it did not go down on the left -- probably, say the researchers, because the left brain processes meaningful semantic content automatically and is also helps to label the emotions.

Thus, physical evidence has revealed that the right hemisphere, while indeed the brain's more "emotional" side, is not solely responsible for processing the expression of emotions. "Understanding emotional prosody," says Vingerhoets, "appears to activate right hemispheric brain regions." However, the left brain stays active to categorize or label the emotion -- as befits its dominance in language processing. "Even if you pay attention to the 'how' information," says Vingerhoets, "you can't help hearing the semantic content, the 'what' of the message. We do this all the time; we are trained in it."

Turning to clinical implications, Vingerhoets says, "People with right hemispheric lesions would have more difficulty paying attention to and discriminating emotional prosody."

Article: "Cerebral Hemodynamics During Discrimination of Prosodic and Semantic Emotion in Speech Studied by Transcranial Doppler Ultrasonography," Guy Vingerhoets, Ph.D.; Celine Berckmoes, M.S.; and Nathalie Stroobant, M.S., Ghent University; Neuropsychology, Vol. 17, No. 1.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Psychological Association. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

American Psychological Association. "Our Emotional Brains: Both Sides Process The Language Of Feelings, With The Left Side Labeling The 'What' And The Right Side Processing The 'How'." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 January 2003. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/01/030113072823.htm>.
American Psychological Association. (2003, January 13). Our Emotional Brains: Both Sides Process The Language Of Feelings, With The Left Side Labeling The 'What' And The Right Side Processing The 'How'. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/01/030113072823.htm
American Psychological Association. "Our Emotional Brains: Both Sides Process The Language Of Feelings, With The Left Side Labeling The 'What' And The Right Side Processing The 'How'." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/01/030113072823.htm (accessed August 20, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Researcher Testing on-Field Concussion Scanners

Researcher Testing on-Field Concussion Scanners

AP (Aug. 19, 2014) Four Texas high school football programs are trying out an experimental system designed to diagnose concussions on the field. The technology is in response to growing concern over head trauma in America's most watched sport. (Aug. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Kids' Drawings At Age 4 Linked To Intelligence At Age 14

Kids' Drawings At Age 4 Linked To Intelligence At Age 14

Newsy (Aug. 19, 2014) A study by King's College London says there's a link between how well kids draw at age 4 and how intelligent they are later in life. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Mental, Neurological Disabilities Up 21% Among Kids

Mental, Neurological Disabilities Up 21% Among Kids

Newsy (Aug. 18, 2014) New numbers show a decade's worth of changes in the number of kids with disabilities. They suggest mental disabilities are up; physical ones are down. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Fake Weed Wreaks Havoc In New Hampshire

Fake Weed Wreaks Havoc In New Hampshire

Newsy (Aug. 17, 2014) New Hampshire's governor declared a state of emergency after more than 40 overdoses of synthetic marijuana in one week throughout the state. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins