Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Our emotional brains: Both sides process the language of feelings...


Both sides of the brain play a role in processing emotional communication, with the right side stepping in when we focus not on the "what" of an emotional message but rather on how it feels.

By studying blood flow velocity to each side of the brain, Belgian psychologists have opened a window onto the richness and complexity of human emotional communication. Their research appears in the January 2003 issue of Neuropsychology, published by the American Psychological Association (APA).

At Ghent University, Guy Vingerhoets, Ph.D., Celine Berckmoes, M.S., and Nathalie Stroobant, M.S., knew that the left brain is dominant for language, and the right brain is dominant for emotion. But what happens when the brain is faced with emotional language? To find out, the researchers used Transcranial Doppler Ultrasonography (ultrasound), an inexpensive, non-invasive and patient-friendly way to measure blood-flow velocity in the brain’s left and right middle cerebral arteries -- an indicator of activity level because neurons, to work, need blood-borne glucose and oxygen.

The researchers asked 36 participants, hooked up to ultrasound monitors, to identify the emotion conveyed in dozens of pre-recorded sentences. Vingerhoets et al. asked participants either to focus on the actual words (semantics) of the sentences, or to focus on the emotion conveyed by how they were spoken, in tone and intensity (prosody).

Each sentences had just one of four basic emotional meanings (happy, sad, angry or afraid) or a neutral semantic meaning. For example, "He really enjoys that funny cartoon" (happy), "The little girl lost both her parents" (sad), "Panic broke out in that dark tunnel" (fear), or "Always store disc in its protective case" (neutral). Actors spoke the sentences with either emotional or neutral prosody.

As they listened to the sentences, participants pointed to the appropriate emotion on a card listing them, using both fingers to minimize setting off one side of the brain only (because body movement on one side is controlled by the brain’s opposite side). Vingerhoets et al. found that when participants were asked to focus on what was said -- semantics -- blood flow velocity went up significantly on the left side of the brain. When participants shifted attention to how it was said -- tone of voice, whether happy, sad, anxious, angry or neutral -- velocity also went up markedly on the right side of the brain. However, it did not go down on the left -- probably, say the researchers, because the left brain processes meaningful semantic content automatically and is also helps to label the emotions.

Thus, physical evidence has revealed that the right hemisphere, while indeed the brain’s more "emotional" side, is not solely responsible for processing the expression of emotions. "Understanding emotional prosody," says Vingerhoets, "appears to activate right hemispheric brain regions." However, the left brain stays active to categorize or label the emotion -- as befits its dominance in language processing. "Even if you pay attention to the ’how’ information," says Vingerhoets, "you can’t help hearing the semantic content, the ’what’ of the message. We do this all the time; we are trained in it."

Turning to clinical implications, Vingerhoets says, "People with right hemispheric lesions would have more difficulty paying attention to and discriminating emotional prosody."

Article: "Cerebral Hemodynamics During Discrimination of Prosodic and Semantic Emotion in Speech Studied by Transcranial Doppler Ultrasonography," Guy Vingerhoets, Ph.D.; Celine Berckmoes, M.S.; and Nathalie Stroobant, M.S., Ghent University;

Pam Willenz | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Inflammation Triggers Unsustainable Immune Response to Chronic Viral Infection
24.10.2016 | Universität Basel

nachricht Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia
21.10.2016 | Universitätsklinikum Magdeburg

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Oasis of life in the ice-covered central Arctic

24.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

‘Farming’ bacteria to boost growth in the oceans

24.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

24.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

More VideoLinks >>>