Flushed, red-hot cheeks. Sweating palms. Hearing your rendition of "My Girl" — but you aren't at karaoke. You are in the lab of Virginia Sturm at the University of California, San Francisco, and she's making you watch your own off-key rendition of The Temptations’ 1964 hit.
Sturm's team is working to isolate the part of the brain in control of embarrassment. They've found that the feeling of embarrassment that comes with experiences such as hearing your own singing is isolated to a thumb-sized bit of tissue deep within your brain.
In people who show low levels of embarrassment — including those with dementia — this brain region is smaller than normal. "This region is actually essential for this reaction. When you lose this region, you lose this embarrassment response," Sturm told LiveScience. (Most of Sturm's study participants are actually patients with dementia, including disorders such as Alzheimer's disease.)