Leonardo believed that emotions were processed in a part of the brain called sensus communis. Find out how this affected Mona Lisa’s emotional side.
Leonardo believed that the soul was tucked away in the same part of the brain as the sensus communis (where sensory information was compared). It was here that fantasy, imagination and dull old intellectual reason fought it out for control of our emotions.
In reality, we are not yet entirely certain which parts of the brain control our emotions. Current thinking (which is science-speak for “best guess”) suggests that our emotional responses are controlled by several different parts of the brain.
The area of the brain directly behind the forehead and above the eyes (the prefrontal cortex) is where we grown-ups anticipate the consequences of our actions, and so it helps us to control our emotions. Just behind this area is another region (the anterior cingulate cortex), which is where we decide where we will direct our attention. This in turn governs our emotional awareness.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the emotional brain, and the bit that has made all of us turn our noses up in disgust at some time or other, is the insular cortex. This connects emotions to other parts of the brain which control heart rate, breathing and digestion and so plays a big role in telling us if things taste good, bad or simply yuck!