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  • Published on: 15th October 2019
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Emotions are manifested in so many different ways – they can be shown through our facial expressions, our language and our behaviour. Basic human emotions include, anger, disgust, joy, surprise, sadness, affection and fear. (Izard & Kagan, 1990) Some of these emotions can be caused by our hormones – Hormones are a vital part of the workings of the human body as they maintain balance and control. ("Hormones: a very short introduction", 2015)

Hormones are a type of chemical messengers that control the regulation of normal functions of different tissues and organs within the body. They pass through the bloodstream carrying sensory messages to the brain then gives messages to certain organs commanding them to perform their daily functions. As well as effecting different functions, it can mainly affect mood.  However, without a proper balance this may lead to problems, ie, mood swings. ("10 Hormones That Effect Our Emotions - TestCountry Articles", 2017)  If an individual has a bad diet this can lead to changes in the human emotions – bad diet can affect neurotransmitters which also are responsible in influencing the production of hormones. These disturbances can lead to the individual feeling, depress, fatigue and restlessness.

There are many different types of hormones within the body that are mainly produced by Endocrine glands, which are a specific type of cell. However the main reproductive hormones that influence both physical, mental health and well-being are – oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone. Sex hormone is a hormone made up from estragon and testosterone. It influences both physical and mental health and well being.  ("Sex hormones and health.: Discover", 2017)

The limbic system is the part of the brain that is related to regulation of emotion and recognition. It is made up of six components; amygdala, hippocampus, septum, thalamus, septum and fornix and limbic cortex. The amygdala is the part of the limbic system that regulates emotion. Sensory information that emerges from events that trigger emotion is transmitted to the thalamus, the centre of the brain. From there, the information gets passed to two brain structures: the amygdala and the brain cortex. The amygdala will then process the information and transmit signal to the hypothalamus. ("The Biology of Emotion", 2017) The hypothalamus will then release hormones that activate automatic nervous system. For example, the amygdala is the reason why individuals will instantly respond to an emotion-evoking event, without being about to think/control how they feel.

Aggressive behaviour comes from interplay in the brain, between the subcortical structures in the amygdala and in the hypothalamus in which emotions are created. The embryonic stage in the brain is where actions of testosterone begins. Testosterone can be the cause in arousal of certain behaviours, such as, anger, verbal aggressiveness, dominance, to physical violence. These behavioural manifestations in the brain centres involved in aggression. (Batrinos, 2012) It has been proven that individuals that act aggressively have higher testosterone levels, for example, individuals that have committed a crime, such as prisoners. Field studies have shown that when individuals are playing sport their testosterone levels will increase, leading them to act in a more aggressive manor.

In 1972 Kreuz & Rose conducted a study to highlight the relationship between testosterone and aggression in men.  (Kreuz & Rose, 1972)They found that prisoners who had committed a series of crimes through their adolescences tested higher on testosterone levels. They measured this through the inmates saliva and the amount of free testosterone within it. The results showed that the prisoners that had a high level of testosterone in their saliva, were the ones that had committed the more violent crimes.

The two factor theory was created by Shachter and Singer. They believed that when a individual feels an emotion, a psychological arousal also occurs and the individual uses the environment around them to find the emotional cues to link to the psychological arousal. (Reisenzein, 1983) An example of this would be if an individual found themselves in with a group of angry people arguing, when they are become physically aroused they many interpret that as a feeling of anger.

However a theoretical criticism of this theory is that it focuses only on the automatic nervous system and does not give an account of the emotional process that occurs in the central nervous system.  (LeDoux, 1995) This is important because of the implications of the brain centres in the mitigating emotional experiences, for example, anxiety and the amygdala.

Walter Cannon came up with a theory called the ‘Cannon – Bard Theory’ which suggested that the brain has a massive influence in producing physiological response and feelings. In Cannon’s experiments he experienced that an individual couldn’t experience emotion through bodily functions. (Dalgleish, 2004) He detailed that it was not reliable to depend on bodily responses to know the emotion the individual is experiencing. For example,  a racing heat or even sweaty hands could be fear or anger. The body shares many different functions that result in different emotions.

Unlike the Two Factor Theory, Cannon theory suggests that individuals can feel emotions before the body has time to respond. He suggested that the experience of emotions includes two different processes in the nervous system: automatic nervous system being responsible for the arousal and the cortex being responsible for the subjective sensation of emotion to be created.  (HQ, 2017) However, a criticism of this theory would be that is assumes that the response our body gives off has no influence one emotion.

To conclude, the relationship between hormones and emotions, can be viewed upon in many different ways. However, the strongest link is when discussing anger. Different parts of the brain have significant part in link the two together. For example, when the a hormone has a high level of testosterone, it sends signal to the brain and triggers certain emotions, such as anger.

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