Mapping the Emotional Homunculus with fMRI

Published: 8 May 2024| Version 1 | DOI: 10.17632/xtmpzwyk7f.1


Emotions are commonly associated with bodily sensations, e.g., boiling with anger when overwhelmed with rage. Studies have shown that emotions are related to specific body parts, suggesting that somatotopically organized cortical regions that commonly respond to somatosensory and motor experiences might be involved in the generation of emotions. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging to investigate whether the subjective feelings of emotion are accompanied by the activation of somatotopically defined sensorimotor brain regions, thus aiming to reconstruct an “emotional homunculus”. By defining the convergence of the brain activation patterns evoked by self-generated emotions during scanning onto a sensorimotor map created on participants’ tactile and motor brain activity, we showed that all the evoked emotions activated parts of this sensorimotor map, yet with considerable overlap among different emotions. Although we could not find a highly specific segmentation of discrete emotions over sensorimotor regions, our results support an embodied experience of emotions. Here, you will find the original code to digitise emBODY pen and paper silhouettes.


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University of Milano-Bicocca


Department of Psychology


Cognitive Neuroscience