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Synchronized brains: Feeling strong emotions makes people's brains 'tick together'

Date:
May 24, 2012
Source:
Aalto University
Summary:
Human emotions are highly contagious. Seeing others' emotional expressions such as smiles triggers often the corresponding emotional response in the observer. Researchers have now found that feeling strong emotions makes different individuals' brain activity literally synchronous.

Experiencing strong emotions synchronizes brain activity across individuals.
Credit: Image courtesy of Aalto University

Experiencing strong emotions synchronizes brain activity across individuals, a research team at Aalto University and Turku PET Centre in Finland has revealed.

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Human emotions are highly contagious. Seeing others' emotional expressions such as smiles triggers often the corresponding emotional response in the observer. Such synchronization of emotional states across individuals may support social interaction: When all group members share a common emotional state, their brains and bodies process the environment in a similar fashion.

Researchers at Aalto University and Turku PET Centre have now found that feeling strong emotions makes different individuals' brain activity literally synchronous.

The results revealed that especially feeling strong unpleasant emotions synchronized brain's emotion processing networks in the frontal and midline regions. On the contrary, experiencing highly arousing events synchronized activity in the networks supporting vision, attention and sense of touch.

"Sharing others' emotional states provides the observers a somatosensory and neural framework that facilitates understanding others' intentions and actions and allows to 'tune in' or 'sync' with them. Such automatic tuning facilitates social interaction and group processes," says Adjunct Professor Lauri Nummenmaa from the Aalto University, Finland.

"The results have major implications for current neural models of human emotions and group behavior. It also deepens our understanding of mental disorders involving abnormal socioemotional processing," Nummenmaa says.

Participants' brain activity was measured with functional magnetic resonance imaging while they were viewing short pleasant, neutral and unpleasant movies.


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. L. Nummenmaa, E. Glerean, M. Viinikainen, I. P. Jaaskelainen, R. Hari, M. Sams. Emotions promote social interaction by synchronizing brain activity across individuals. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2012; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1206095109

Cite This Page:

Aalto University. "Synchronized brains: Feeling strong emotions makes people's brains 'tick together'." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 May 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120524112342.htm>.
Aalto University. (2012, May 24). Synchronized brains: Feeling strong emotions makes people's brains 'tick together'. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 31, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120524112342.htm
Aalto University. "Synchronized brains: Feeling strong emotions makes people's brains 'tick together'." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120524112342.htm (accessed January 31, 2015).

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