Printer Friendly

Seeking the source of emotions.

Seeking the source of emotions

In studying the roots of emotion, researchers typically focus on facial expressions for clues to the different emotions babies experience. These expressions apparently reflect a "central emotional system" in the brain that formulates positive and negative emotions during the first year of life, says psychologist Nathan A. Fox of the University of Maryland in College Park.

Fox, who spoke at the recent annual meeting of the American Psychological Association in New Orleans, contends the "primary" emotions--joy, interest, fear, disgust, anger and sadness--emerge under the direction of an inner-brain structure called the amygdala.

Recent animal studies conducted by psychologist Joseph E. LeDoux of Cornell University Medical College in New York City indicate the amygdala determines the emotional importance of stimuli. In human infants, Fox maintains, the amygdala may evaluate sensory information and handle the decision to approach or withdraw from an object, person or situation. Complex emotions are probably forged as the amygdala gradually develops neuronal connections to the brain's frontal lobes, he adds.

One signal of a baby's tendency to approach or withdraw from an emotional stimulus is the pattern of electrical activity across the surface of the brain, Fox asserts. Over the past seven years, he and his co-workers have found that electrical activity in an infant's left brain hemisphere surges during positive emotions, while electrical activity in the right hemisphere greatly increases during negative emotions. They obtain measurements via electrodes embedded in a metal cap placed over an infant's head.

Right hemisphere activation is most striking when a baby cries, Fox notes, whereas activity intensifies in the left hemisphere during a smile.

Much remains unknown about the roles of the right and left hemispheres in emotional development (SN: 3/11/89, p.149). Nevertheless, changes in the electrical charges produced by the hemispheres appear to mirror infants' emotional experiences in different situations, Fox says.
COPYRIGHT 1989 Science Service, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Publication:Science News
Date:Sep 9, 1989
Previous Article:Chemistry of compulsive hair pulling.
Next Article:Sperm sorter ensures sex-linked litters.

Related Articles
The face of emotion; facial expressions may create feelings as well as communicate them; the possibility, at least, should be explored, says one...
Preschoolers get grip on hidden emotions.
Hurricanes look great from space.
Elderly show their emotional know-how.
Dancing with feeling.
Masking One's emotion.
Designing emotionally sound instruction - an empirical validation of the FEASP-approach.
Engraving emotions: memory and identity in the quest for emotive scholarship.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2016 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters