Episode 5 of our neuroscience and literature podcast looks at emotions and the body with as much objectivity as it can muster. The two texts under discussion drill down into how (and where in the body) we feel things, what it is that we call emotion, and how feelings change or persist over time.
Sarah Maguire‘s “The Hearing Cure” (a poem from her 1997 collection The Invisible Mender: https://www.poetryarchive.org/poet/sarah-maguire) uses pain, fear and relief associated with illness in the present to make a memory map of motherly love. Do we remember childhood emotions? When do we start organising impressions into a story?
“Bodily Maps of Emotions” by Lauri Nummenmaa et al (https://www.pnas.org/content/111/2/646) investigates the locations of somatic response in the body and reaches some striking conclusions: laughter (but not its meaning) translates across cultures as a socially acceptable non-verbal expression, crows know what it is to be looked at, and sadness is oddly hard to place. Sophie and Will have a polite disagreement about recognition, but a false dichotomy – are emotions inherited or cultural? – brings them back together again. Happy Days. (S. Beckett – that’s in there, too).