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Biol Psychol. 2010 Jul;84(3):394-421. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2010.03.010. Epub 2010 Apr 4.

Autonomic nervous system activity in emotion: a review.

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Department of Psychology, University of Geneva and Swiss Center for Affective Sciences, Geneva, Switzerland.


Autonomic nervous system (ANS) activity is viewed as a major component of the emotion response in many recent theories of emotion. Positions on the degree of specificity of ANS activation in emotion, however, greatly diverge, ranging from undifferentiated arousal, over acknowledgment of strong response idiosyncrasies, to highly specific predictions of autonomic response patterns for certain emotions. A review of 134 publications that report experimental investigations of emotional effects on peripheral physiological responding in healthy individuals suggests considerable ANS response specificity in emotion when considering subtypes of distinct emotions. The importance of sound terminology of investigated affective states as well as of choice of physiological measures in assessing ANS reactivity is discussed.

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