Emotions are integral decision mechanisms in the brain of humans and animals. They are universal in mammals, originally evolved for governing fitness-relevant behavioral and physiological responses towards a particular stimulus or situation. Emotional brain assessment mechanisms are dependent on motivation and vary according to homeostatic needs, for example, feelings of hunger, coldness, or sexual urges. They may be either solely inherited or additionally modified by experience and, in humans, by memory and tradition. Emotions can be measured on the behavioral level by the type of a behavioral response, reflected, for example, in vocalizations, bodily displays, facial mimics, gestures, or simply in avoidance-approach tendencies. Furthermore, emotions are characterized by changes in the intensity of responses toward a specific stimulus or situation. These intensity changes are reflected in different levels of arousal, which in turn can be objectively assessed by measuring reactions of the autonomous nervous system, for example, heart rate, blood pressure, piloerection, or epinephrine (adrenaline) secretion. As further means to gain objective information on emotions, neural circuits, and neurohormonal correlates can be investigated and specific brain representations can be visualized with modern imaging methods. In humans, self-reports may provide additional important insights into the nature, quality, and time course of emotions.
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