Researchers Say Experiencing Strong Emotions Synchronizes Brain Activity Across Individuals

Posted on May 24, 2012

Emotions Synchronized Brain Activity


Researchers at Aalto University and Turku PET Centre in Finland have found that experiencing strong emotions synchronizes brain activity across individuals. Seeing others' emotional expressions, such as smiles, triggers often the corresponding emotional response in the observer.

Researchers at Aalto University and Turku PET Centre have now found that feeling strong emotions makes different individuals' brain activity literally synchronous. Participants' brain activity was measured with functional magnetic resonance imaging while they were viewing short pleasant, neutral and unpleasant movies. The results revealed that feeling strong unpleasant emotions synchronized brain's emotion processing networks in the frontal and midline regions. Experiencing highly arousing events synchronized activity in the networks supporting vision, attention and sense of touch. People tend to experience emotions in a similar manner, so it seems logical that the brain activity of people experiencing emotions would be similar.

Adjunct Professor Lauri Nummenmaa from the Aalto University, says, "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."

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

Image: Lauri Numminmaa