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Emotional Games

Brain responses during interactive emotion-eliciting video game play

09 February 2021

Emotional Games

Although emotions are something that we can all feel, to a greater or lesser extent, we know very little about how they’re actually generated by our brains. Most scientific studies of emotions rely on volunteers passively looking at things like photos or videos and measuring how they respond. They also tend to use pre-defined descriptions of emotions, such as fear, disgust or happiness. But real life is much more interactive, and the feelings we experience don’t fit neatly into boxes. To delve deeper into the complex world of emotions, researchers have devised an unusual new experiment: an old-fashioned arcade game, played by volunteers undergoing fMRI brain scans and other measurements. As the participants work through various scenarios in the game that have been designed to evoke particular feelings, researchers can observe activity and interactions between distinct networks within the brain, shedding light on how different processes help to produce emotions.

Written by Kat Arney

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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