This Pacman-like video game helped scientists study emotions in the human brain
In a new study, after analysing the feelings, expressions and physiological responses of video gamers as they played a Pacman-like arcade game, scientists have decoded the origin of emotions in the human brain.
The video game was specially developed to arouse different emotions depending on the progress of the game.
The results, published in the journal PLOS Biology, confirm that emotions are the brain's synchronized response to events.
The findings showed that different emotional components recruit several neural networks in parallel distributed throughout the brain, and that their transient synchronisation generates an emotional state.
"The somatosensory and motor pathways are two of the areas involved in this synchronisation, thereby validating the idea that emotion is grounded in action-oriented functions in order to allow an adapted response to events," according to the team from University of Geneva (UNIGE).
Emotions are complex phenomena that influence our minds, bodies and behaviour.
A number of studies have sought to connect given emotions, such as fear or pleasure, to specific areas of the brain, but without success.
Most studies use passive stimulation to understand the emergence of emotions, showing the participants photos or videos, and record their brain activity.
"The problem is that these regions overlap for different emotions, so they're not specific," said Joana Leitao, a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Fundamental Neurosciences (NEUFO) in UNIGE.
"What's more, it's likely that, although these images represent emotions well, they don't evoke them."
To dig deeper, the Geneva neuroscientists devised a video game similar to the famous Pacman.
"The aim is to evoke emotions that correspond to different forms of evaluation," said Leitao.
"Rather than viewing simple images, participants play a video game that puts them in situations they'll have to evaluate so they can advance."
The results also indicated that a region deep in the brain called the basal ganglia is involved in this synchronisation.
This structure is known as a convergence point between multiple cortical regions, said the authors.
*Edited from an IANS report