Changing feelings – neuroscientist explains how it works

Photo: CC0 Public Domain / unpslash – Priscilla Du Preez

How a person acts or feels, the brain tries to explore in advance. What feelings a person has also comes from the brain. A neuroscientist explains how people can understand and change feelings.

In an interview with Die Welt, neuroscientist and psychologist Lisa Feldmann Barrett explains how people can control and influence their emotions. She is a professor of psychology at Northeastern University in Boston and works at Harvard Medical School.

In order to understand how people can influence their feelings, Feldmann Barrett first explains in the World Interview how the processes in the brain work and how emotions arise. According to this, the brain assembles categories from past experiences that “are in some way similar” to one another. This allows the brain to make better predictions about what a person will experience in the next moment, explains the professor.

That’s how the brain works

The psychologist cites a bang as an example. According to her, if a person hears this noise, the brain reconstructs experiences from the past and could, for example, infer a rumble of thunder. In response, the brain could then prompt humans to reach for an umbrella. In another example, Feldmann Barrett shows in the Welt-Interview how such a process could take place inside the body. If a person feels a tightness in their chest, the brain will “try to guess the cause” to keep the person alive, the psychologist explains.

According to Feldman Barrett, the brain projects into the future and tries to meet needs before they arise. The brain thus develops an expectation of what the person will feel or taste in the next moment. “Brains are structured to predict and correct, not to be stimulated and then to react,” explains Feldmann Barrett. In this way, the brain can reduce uncertainties. In addition, the psychologist explains that it is more efficient for the metabolism to correct predictions than just to react. If it didn’t, in the event of a loud bang, the brain would have to “construct competing categories at once, creating many action plans, each with a certain probability of being the best fit, and that takes energy. It also takes time,” says the psychologist.

Emotions in the brain – they have this task

Emotions make it possible to classify the processes in the brain. According to Feldmann Barrett, the brain processes various signals from the body and passes on a kind of “summary” of this as a dull feeling. As a rule, people are not consciously aware of how their individual organs are working, but feelings such as discomfort or excitement allow conclusions to be drawn about the state of the body.

In addition, the brain wires signals from the world, one’s own body and from the past and develops an appropriate category. As an example, the psychologist cites meeting a person in a bar, who you may experience as a fool when you feel uncomfortable and at the same time “the brain makes up a story for these sensory signals by constructing categories.” Another picture could be get from the person when the brain puts the person in a different category and you develop different emotions, such as fear.

change feelings

According to the psychologist, feelings can be changed. To do this, people can use the categories of the brain to help. Feldmann Barrett explains that anyone who suffers from exam anxiety, for example, can re-categorize the tachycardia. Thus, the person may construct tachycardia as “excitement and a sense of determination” rather than fear.

To redirect feelings in this way, categories must be accessible. This can be trained for new and existing categories. The brain can thus align itself more flexibly and precisely to a situation. She herself has been in awe for some time by regularly taking time to admire things. As an example, she cites weeds that, despite human efforts, grew out of the cracks in a pavement, showing her the power of nature. Today she can feel awe in any situation. It’s a “little coping strategy that’s available” when she needs it. “If I’m just one species in the vast universe, then my problems can’t be too big, and this perspective gives my nervous system a temporary respite from the stresses of life,” explains the psychologist.

Source used: World


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