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Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. 2006 Jun;1(1):37-48. doi: 10.1093/scan/nsl005.

Increased feelings with increased body signals.

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Department of Neurology, The University of Iowa, Iowa City, USA.


Since the beginning of psychology as a scientific endeavour, the question of whether the body plays a role in how a person experiences emotion has been the centre of emotion research. Patients with structural gastrointestinal disorders, such as Crohn's disease, provide an intriguing opportunity to study the influence of body signals on emotions and feelings. In the present study, emotionally salient films were presented to participants with Crohn's disease in either the active state (Crohn's-active, CA) or silent state (Crohn's-silent, CS), and to normal comparison (NC) participants. We hypothesized that CA participants would have increased feelings, compared with CS and NC participants, when viewing emotional films designed to elicit happiness, disgust, sadness and fear. Gastric myoelectrical activity (electrogastrogram, or EGG) was measured during the films, and after each film was presented, participants rated emotion intensity (arousal) and pleasantness (valence). All groups labelled the emotions similarly. In support of the hypothesis, CA participants showed an increase in subjective arousal for negative emotions compared with CS and NC participants. The CA participants also showed increased EGG during emotional film viewing, as well as a strong positive correlation of EGG with arousal ratings. Together, these findings can be taken as evidence that aberrant feedback from the gastrointestinal system up-regulates the intensity of feelings of negative emotions.

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