Love and fear are diffuse, instead of restricted to any brain region

on 17 February 2018
Total brain recall

Scientists at the Aalto University discover that emotional experience is felt across the whole brain, as opposed to just the emotional centres, that, perhaps, are merely the switching stations from where the emotionally charged sensory information starts its processing  . . . . . . . . . . 

If one considers the seeming fact, that much of the experience that creates intense emotional feelings comes from our memories of them, then it makes perfect sense that the feeling of emotion is spread across the entire brain. It is my belief that each of our senses individually record the entirety of each significant emotional experience. I say each significant experience in deference to those who believe the brain records every experience. Many of the daily experiences we have are performed in short term, working memory, most of which never makes it to long term memory. As such, I fail to see how the brain/mind can remember an experience it doesn't record? Anyway, to continue. Each of our 5 sensory experiences is later processed by convergence zones, which effectively record a unified sensory memory of the event. It is important to remember that the memory of each sensory experience is perceptual, meaning, it does not have to be factual; merely believed to be so! Similarly, it is possible that the collective perception of each sensory perceptual experience can be distorted or corrupted. This can occur by virtue of similar sensory experience. For example, if a man or woman has had a negative relationship experience, then confirmation bias can influence the most prolific sense of that gender experience, perhaps, in the visual or auditory cortex! In addition to that, every time a memory is recalled (consciously or subconsciously) the brain produces new proteins and that can also affect the memory by distorting, corrupting or generalising, e.g. all men/women are!

Life, from a sensory perspective, is all about perception; it's at the very heart of how cells function. Everything we say, think or do, is, to some degree, based on memory. If it wasn't we'd have to relearn everything, every day; fortunately we don't have to do that. But that fact is actually as much of a curse as it is a blessing. Because in many of our daily negative emotional experiences, we act in a rather ritualistic fashion, in a sense we are responding to the memory of a memory of how we handle that kind of situation. And as we grow and develop our perceptions, beliefs and values change, which, as you may have guessed, further changes our perceptions and, therefore, our emotional responses. The progressive nature of anxiety disorders is a direct result of this process; that is why it is so confounding!

Our sensory, perceptive, cellular experience is part of a pre-coded (as well as adaptive and capable of encoding the unknown), neural mechanism, which is based on sensory memory. This process is mostly activated outside of conscious awareness. This may lead you to think that we are merely automatons but we are definitely not. The difference, that makes the difference, is that we can think; Rene Descartes knew this over 400 years ago. And it is our ability to use our mind that ultimately sets us free, that said, it is often quite difficult to do this for ourselves.

This is one of the most empowering reasons to consider hypnotherapy because hypnosis is an effective medium to communicate with the subconscious. Trying to resolve emotional issues consciously, logically or analytically, is like trying to resolve a software issue by recoding it using the Queen's English. While software code uses English letters and characters, it is not a legible language. The brain is exactly the same, there are no letters (of any language) in the brain, merely chemical transmission. Our own individual language is the code we use to make sense of our neural-linguistic processing. And the way we use language is intricately involved in how our cells express themselves. Therefore, by changing the way we use language, we can change perception and once you change perception, you change the ways cells express themselves and that changes the way life unfolds!

My aim here, is to highlight the way hypnosis can help many people, who have conditions that confuse them or, that are not responding to other medical interventions.

Hypnotherapy,, essentially helping ordinary people; live a more ordinary life! To find out more, why not make an appointment for a Free Consultation - here


The Research:  

An emotional state mainly activates wide, overlapping neural networks. When comparing groups of emotions, positive emotions activate the anterior prefrontal cortex, negative basic emotions tend to activate the somato-motor and subcortical regions and negative social emotions activate brain areas that process motor and social information.  Credit: Heini Saarimäki

The brain mechanisms of basic emotions such as anger and happiness are fairly similar across people. Differences are greater in social emotions, such as gratitude and contempt.

In the field of affective neuroscience, rivalling theories debate whether emotional states can be regarded as an activity of only certain brain regions. According to a new doctoral dissertation at Aalto University, an emotional state affects the operation of the entire brain instead of individual emotions being localised only in specific regions in the brain.

'From the biological point of view, an emotion is a state of the entire brain at a given moment. For example, the brain may interpret certain action models, memories and bodily changes altogether as anger,' explains Doctoral Candidate Heini Saarimäki.

Different emotional states of the participants were evoked with films, mental imagery or guided imagery based on narratives. After that, a classifier algorithm based on machine learning was trained to connect the specific emotions and the brain data related to them. The classifier algorithm was then tested by giving it new brain data and by measuring how successfully the algorithm recognised the correct emotion solely on the basis of the brain data. The method for measuring brain activity is based on measuring the changes in the blood oxygen content in the brain and it provides information on the activation of the brain with millimetre-accuracy.

The researchers were particularly interested in emotion-specific brain maps, that is, maps on the localisation of emotions in various areas across the entire brain. By analysing the activity of the entire brain, a machine learning algorithm may be able to determine the emotional state in question.

Saarimäki and her colleagues discovered that the brain maps of basic emotions such as anger, happiness, sadness, fear, surprise and disgust were to some extent similar across people. Basic emotions seem to be at least partially biologically determined, whereas social emotions -- gratitude, contempt, pride and shame -- are to a greater extent built on experience. In social emotions, the differences in brain activity between people are greater than in basic emotions.

From groups of similar emotions to the power of empathy

The classifier algorithm makes more mistakes with distinguishing emotions that have similar brain maps than with emotions whose brain maps have little in common. This information can be further compared to how people interpret certain emotions subjectively. Positive emotions, such as happiness, love, gratitude and pride, are more similar both as subjective experiences and at the level of brain activity. Negative emotions, such as fear, anger and sadness, on the other hand, have as a group a similar basis in brain activity. The brain activities during negative social emotions such as shame, guilt and contempt, in turn, resemble each other most but differ from the brain maps of basic negative emotions.

'We also discovered that the accuracy of emotion classification seems to be related to individual differences in emotional processing, such as in the ability to feel empathy. We want to examine in more detail how individual differences, for example in empathy, are linked to the functioning of the emotional systems of the brain. A separate research project investigating this is about to begin,' Saarimäki explains.

 The results of the study benefit the treatment of mental health disorders or memory loss diseases, which both appear to be clearly connected to emotional disorders. A better understanding of the brain mechanisms of different emotions may be helpful in planning and targeting treatment correctly.


Story Source:  Materials provided by Aalto UniversityNote: Content may be edited for style and length.