Humans are emotional creatures. But as well as the good stuff like happiness, darker feelings can lead to mental health problems including anxiety, depression and addiction. Using a scanning technique called functional MRI – which pinpoints parts of the brain that are active – researchers have been mapping the bits of the brain that 'light up' when people are triggered to feel negative emotions, by showing them depressing or unpleasant photos. The experiments reveal a characteristic signature of activity across many different parts of the brain, seen here as the blue and yellow patches in these scans from one volunteer in the study, which can predict how strong their negative feelings are likely to be in response to different pictures. Mapping the signatures of emotion in this way starts to provide a deeper understanding of the physical roots of mental illness, guiding the development of better tools for diagnosis and treatment.
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