Awareness, Empathy, and Emotions

Here’s one more reason to meditate if you want to rule the world, or like, read and empathize with other people and stuff.

The insula and linked circuits activate when you experience strong emotions such as fear or anger; they also light up when you see others having those same feelings particularly people you care about. The more aware you are of your own emtional and bodily states, the more your insula and anterior cingulate cortex activate – and the better you are at reading others (Singer et al. 2004).

Rick Hanson, PHD. and Richard Mendius, MD. Buddha’s Brain, The practical neuroscience of happiness, love, and wisdom. Chapter 8, Two Wolves in the Heart.

The insuwhat? “The insula plays a role in diverse functions usually linked to emotion or the regulation of the body’s homeostasis. These functions include perception, motor control, self-awareness, cognitive functioning, and interpersonal experience.” In other words, it’s to blame, or praise, for a lot of things. You can read more about the insula to your heart’s content on that good ol’ Wikipedia.

Picture courtesy of Hmm... chocolate cake.

An illustrated guide to your insular cortext, courtesy of Hmm... chocolate cake.