A cross-species affective neuroscience strategy for understanding the primary-process (basic) emotions is defended. The need for analyzing the brain and mind in terms of evolutionary stratification of functions into at least primary (instinctual), secondary (learned), and tertiary (thought-related) processes is advanced. When viewed in this context, the contentious battles between basic-emotion theorists and dimensional-constructivist approaches can be seen to be largely nonsubstantial differences among investigators working at different levels of analysis.
Jaak Panksepp’s article ‘Affective Consciousness: Core Emotional Feelings in Animals and Humans’ is a excellent review and summary by a leading empirical contributor whose work for many years has been running counter to reigning behavioristic premises in neuroscience. It may unfortunately be true that he could not get this review published in many neuroscience journals because it attacks too many sacred cows. Panksepp has given readers of Consciousness and Cognition a nicely condensed summary of much of his classic 1998 textbook, (...) Affective Neuroscience. I’m reasonably confident that future neuroscience students will look on that textbook as one of the seminal publications on the subject of emotion and the brain, much as we might now look back on Luria’s Higher Cortical Functions in Man, or Paul MacLean’s classic work, The Triune Brain. There is probably little that I can add to his elegant presentation of the basic affective neuroscience findings, but I would like to highlight a few key issues for the reader. (shrink)
Considerations stemming from a basic taxonomy of emotion suggest that the creation of social bonds is a critical domain for affective neuroscience. A critical phenomenon within this group of processes promoting attachment is empathy, a process essential to mitigation of human suffering, and for both the creation and long term stability of social bonds. Models of empathy emerging from cognitive and affective neuroscience show widespread confusion about cognitive versus affective dimensions to empathy. Human empathy probably reflects admixtures of more primitive (...) 'affective resonance' or contagion mechanisms, melded with developmentally later- arriving emotion identification, and theory of mind/perspective taking. From these considerations, a basic model of affective empathy is generated as a gated resonance induction of the internal distress of another creature, with an intrinsic motivation to relieve the distress. It is 'gated,' in that at least four classes of hypothesized variables determine intensity of an empathic response to the suffering of another. Differential predictions of this model vs. current ones, and future tests are proposed. (shrink)
Once deemed not respectable as a scientific domain, when behaviourist doctrine held sway, emotion is now an exploding subject of compelling attraction to a wide range of disciplines in psychology and neuroscience. Recent work suggests that the concept of 'affective regulation' has become a buzzword in these areas. Disciplines involved include not only affective neuroscience, but also cognitive neuroscience, developmental psychology, clinical psychiatric studies into syndromes of emotion dys-regulation , various psychotherapy approaches, and several others, e.g. the increasingly popular fields (...) of meditation and relaxation training. However, the overall conceptualization of emotion and its close ties to cognitive processes continues to befuddle many theorists and researchers, for various reasons. Mario Beauregard , Consciousness, Emotional Self-Regulation and the Brain. (shrink)
Merker offers a remarkable statement about the neural integration essential to conscious states provided by the mesodiencephalon. The model for triangular interaction between action selection, target selection, and emotion is heuristic. Unfortunately, there is little interest (relatively speaking) in neuroscience in the mesodiencephalon, and attention is currently heavily directed to the telencephalon. This suggests that there may be less real momentum than commonly assumed towards the Holy Grail of neuroscience, a scientific theory of mind, despite the major upsurge in interest. (...) (Published Online May 1 2007). (shrink)
[opening paragraph]: Consciousness and emotion are ancient topics, both as old as culture, yet still in their scientific infancy, slowly emerging into full respectability after decades of systematic neglect by science. Despite a recent modest resurgence of interest, emotion remains perhaps the least understood subject -- relative to its importance in human life -- in the whole of neuroscience. This is probably overdetermined. It may be in part a hangover from Lange-James perspectives in which emotion was largely reduced to an (...) epiphenomenon, a sensory-motor feedback of autonomic and other afferents, a kind of compelling but ultimately irrelevant after-image. Additionally, the explosion of cognitive neuroscience, in concert with the extensive discrediting of much of psychoanalytic thinking, has left emotion in a largely secondary role, despite a dramatic lessening of the stranglehold that behaviourism had over thinking in psychology. Cognition is very much in ascendance these days, including in consciousness circles, with some even assuming its foundations are fundamentally independent of affect, a position for which there is little evolutionary or neurological evidence. (shrink)