Subcortical and cortical brain activity during the feeling of self-generated emotions


In a series of [15O]PET experiments aimed at investigating the neural basis of emotion and feeling, 41 normal subjects recalled and re-experienced personal life episodes marked by sadness, happiness, anger or fear. We tested the hypothesis that the process of feeling emotions requires the participation of brain regions, such as the somatosensory cortices and the upper brainstem nuclei, that are involved in the mapping and/or regulation of internal organism states. Such areas were indeed engaged, underscoring the close relationship between emotion and homeostasis. The findings also lend support to the idea that the subjective process of feeling emotions is partly grounded in dynamic neural maps, which represent several aspects of the organism's continuously changing internal state.

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Figure 1: Neural correlates of feeling sadness and happiness.
Figure 2: Neural correlates of feeling anger and fear.
Figure 3: Emotion-related activity in anterior pontine nuclei.


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Supported in part by grants from the Mathers Foundation and NIH Grant 1 P50 DC 03189-01A1.

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Correspondence to Antonio R. Damasio.

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Damasio, A., Grabowski, T., Bechara, A. et al. Subcortical and cortical brain activity during the feeling of self-generated emotions. Nat Neurosci 3, 1049–1056 (2000).

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