To understand how emotions work in the body, Fedrick says that it is necessary to understand how they are filtered through the brain.
“The limbic system has been identified as the primary part of the brain that processes our emotional experiences. The brain has a specific emotional filter, also known as the amygdala, which stimuli are processed through,” she explains.
The amygdala is designed to store sensory memory from our previous experiences and uses this information as the gauge to determine how to feel about present-day experiences. The amygdala then sends out corresponding information to other parts of the brain, which results in the release of certain neurotransmitters and hormones based on the interpretation of that event.
“For example, if the amygdala processes an event as exciting or enjoyable, there will be a release of dopamine, serotonin, endorphins, etc., that will influence how the body reacts to this event,” Fedrick explains. “If the amygdala senses something as scary, shameful, irritating, worrisome, etc., there will be a release of epinephrine, norepinephrine, adrenaline, cortisol, which are all responsible for our fight-or-flight response that is designed to keep us safe.”
Thus, emotions are experienced in the body as the result of how the brain processes an event and what neurotransmitters and hormones are released into the body in response to this interpretation.