Feeling strong emotions makes peoples' brains 'tick together'

May 24, 2012
Emotions synchronize brain activity in the networks supporting vision, attention and emotional processing. Credit: Lauri Numminmaa

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

Human emotions are highly contagious. Seeing others' such as smiles triggers often the corresponding emotional response in the observer. Such synchronisation 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' literally synchronous.

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

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 and group processes, says Adjunct Professor Lauri Nummenmaa from the Aalto University.

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

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

Explore further: Study uses music to explore the autistic brain's emotion processing

Related Stories

Biomarker for autism discovered

July 12, 2011

Siblings of people with autism show a similar pattern of brain activity to that seen in people with autism when looking at emotional facial expressions. The University of Cambridge researchers identified the reduced activity ...

Obesity is associated with altered brain function

February 9, 2012

In most western countries the annual increase in the prevalence and the severity of obesity is currently substantial. Although obesity typically results simply from excessive energy intake, it is currently unclear why some ...

Recommended for you

Psychosis associated with low levels of physical activity

August 25, 2016

A large international study of more than 200,000 people in nearly 50 countries has revealed that people with psychosis engage in low levels of physical activity, and men with psychosis are over two times more likely to miss ...

Sleep makes relearning faster and longer-lasting

August 22, 2016

Getting some sleep in between study sessions may make it easier to recall what you studied and relearn what you've forgotten, even 6 months later, according to new findings from Psychological Science, a journal of the Association ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.