The science of feeling emotions

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When you receive good news, your heart soars! Conversely, when you hear terrible news, you might feel a sinking feeling or deal with what is known as heartache. Ever wondered how emotions can affect you physically? How exactly do intense emotions have a direct effect on specific feelings in our body?

This study in 2010 published in the Scientific American explains that this experience is linked to the anterior cingulate cortex, a region of the brain that is believed to regulate emotional reactions. Robert Emery and Jim Coan, professors of psychology at the University of Virginia, theorize that the anterior cingulate cortex becomes more active during high intensity and stressful situations.

In turn, this region stimulates the vagus nerve, which begins in the brain stem and links up to the chest and abdomen. This connection, according to the study, is believed to cause the pain we feel in our chest during stressful situations!

Interestingly, another study in 2013 published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences also found that particular emotions were felt on certain parts of the participants’ bodies and that the results were similar across different cultures.

The study found that emotions such as anger, fear, and anxiety were all associated with heavy sensations in the chest area, while feelings of happiness and love could be belt all across the body. That possibly explains why the feeling of falling in love is sometimes described as being wrapped in a cloud!