People with higher levels of body awareness may experience more feelings of anxiety and other negative emotions. Results of a small study published in Nature Neuroscience (2004; 7 ,102–3) showed that subjects who were more aware of their own heart rate levels also felt more anxiety than subjects who lacked awareness of their own physical states.
Researchers asked participants connected to brain scan machines to identify whether their heart rate was in sync with a series of tones. People able to accurately report their heart rate also experienced more activity in the right anterior insular cortex of the brain and appeared to have more nerve cells in that area of the brain. Researchers questioned participants about their daily experiences with positive and negative emotions. The same people who were able to accurately report their heart rate also reported more symptoms of depression, anxiety and other negative emotions.
The purpose of this research was to improve understanding of the connection between emotions and the body’s physiologic state. The researchers suggested that if people with anxiety disorders do have a stronger understanding of their physiologic state, then behavioral therapies, such as relaxation techniques, may play an important role in managing these emotions.