Affective neuroscience of the emotional Brain Mind: Evolutionary perspectives and implications for understanding depression

Cross-species affective neuroscience studies confirm that primary-process emotional feelings are organized within primitive subcortical regions of the brain that are anatomically, neurochemically, and functionally homologous in all mammals that have been studied. Emotional feelings (affects) are intrinsic values that inform animals how they are faring in the quest to survive. The various positive affects indicate that animals are returning to “comfort zones ” that support survival, and negative affects reflect “discomfort zones ” that indicate that animals are in situations that may impair survival. They are ancestral tools for living-evolutionary memories of such importance that they were coded into the genome in rough form (as primary brain processes), which are refined by basic learning mechanisms (secondary processes) as well as by higher-order cognitions/thoughts (tertiary processes). To understand why depression feels horrible, we must fathom the affective infrastructure of the mammalian brain. Advances in our understanding of the nature of primary-process emotional affects can promote the development of better preclinical models of psychiatric disorders and thereby also allow clinicians new and useful ways to understand the foundational aspects of their clients’ problems. These networks are of clear importance for understanding psychiatric disorders and advancing psychiatric practice. © 2010 LLS SAS.

Cross-species affective neuroscience studies confirm that primary-process emotional feelings are organized within primitive subcortical regions of the brain that are anatomically, neurochemically, and functionally homologous in all mammals that have been studied. Emotional feelings (affects) are intrinsic values that inform animals how they are faring in the quest to survive. The various positive affects indicate that animals are returning to “comfort zones ” that support survival, and negative affects reflect “discomfort zones ” that indicate that animals are in situations that may impair survival. They are ancestral tools for living-evolutionary memories of such importance that they were coded into the genome in rough form (as primary brain processes), which are refined by basic learning mechanisms (secondary processes) as well as by higher-order cognitions/thoughts (tertiary processes). To understand why depression feels horrible, we must fathom the affective infrastructure of the mammalian brain. Advances in our understanding of the nature of primary-process emotional affects can promote the development of better preclinical models of psychiatric disorders and thereby also allow clinicians new and useful ways to understand the foundational aspects of their clients’ problems. These networks are of clear importance for understanding psychiatric disorders and advancing psychiatric practice. © 2010 LLS SAS.

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