Cross-Species affective neuroscience decoding of the primal affective experiences of humans and related animals

Background: The issue of whether other animals have internally felt experiences has vexed animal behavioral science since its inception. Although most investigators remain agnostic on such contentious issues, there is now abundant experimental evidence indicating that all mammals have negatively and positively-valenced emotional networks concentrated in homologous brain regions that mediate affective experiences when animals are emotionally aroused. That is what the neuroscientific evidence indicates. Principal Findings: The relevant lines of evidence are as follows: 1) It is easy to elicit powerful unconditioned emotional responses using localized electrical stimulation of the brain (ESB); these effects are concentrated in ancient subcortical brain regions. Seven types of emotional arousals have been described; using a special capitalized nomenclature for such primary process emotional systems, they are SEEKING, RAGE, FEAR, LUST, CARE, PANIC/GRIEF and PLAY. 2) These brain circuits are situated in homologous subcortical brain regions in all vertebrates tested. Thus, if one activates FEAR arousal circuits in rats, cats or primates, all exhibit similar fear responses. 3) All primary-process emotional-instinctual urges, even ones as complex as social PLAY, remain intact after radical neo-decortication early in life; thus, the neocortex is not essential for the generation of primary-process emotionality. 4) Using diverse measures, one can demonstrate that animals like and dislike ESB of brain regions that evoke unconditioned instinctual emotional behaviors: Such ESBs can serve as ‘rewards’ and ‘punishments’ in diverse approach and escape/avoidance learning tasks. 5) Comparable ESB of human brains yield comparable affective experiences. Thus, robust evidence indicates that raw primary-process (i.e., instinctual, unconditioned) emotional behaviors and feelings emanate from homologous brain functions in all mammals (see Appendix S1), which are regulated by higher brain regions. Such findings suggest nested-hierarchies of BrainMind affective processing, with primal emotional functions being foundational for secondary-process learning and memory mechanisms, which interface with tertiary-process cognitive-thoughtful functions of the BrainMind. © 2011 Jaak Panksepp.

Background: The issue of whether other animals have internally felt experiences has vexed animal behavioral science since its inception. Although most investigators remain agnostic on such contentious issues, there is now abundant experimental evidence indicating that all mammals have negatively and positively-valenced emotional networks concentrated in homologous brain regions that mediate affective experiences when animals are emotionally aroused. That is what the neuroscientific evidence indicates. Principal Findings: The relevant lines of evidence are as follows: 1) It is easy to elicit powerful unconditioned emotional responses using localized electrical stimulation of the brain (ESB); these effects are concentrated in ancient subcortical brain regions. Seven types of emotional arousals have been described; using a special capitalized nomenclature for such primary process emotional systems, they are SEEKING, RAGE, FEAR, LUST, CARE, PANIC/GRIEF and PLAY. 2) These brain circuits are situated in homologous subcortical brain regions in all vertebrates tested. Thus, if one activates FEAR arousal circuits in rats, cats or primates, all exhibit similar fear responses. 3) All primary-process emotional-instinctual urges, even ones as complex as social PLAY, remain intact after radical neo-decortication early in life; thus, the neocortex is not essential for the generation of primary-process emotionality. 4) Using diverse measures, one can demonstrate that animals like and dislike ESB of brain regions that evoke unconditioned instinctual emotional behaviors: Such ESBs can serve as ‘rewards’ and ‘punishments’ in diverse approach and escape/avoidance learning tasks. 5) Comparable ESB of human brains yield comparable affective experiences. Thus, robust evidence indicates that raw primary-process (i.e., instinctual, unconditioned) emotional behaviors and feelings emanate from homologous brain functions in all mammals (see Appendix S1), which are regulated by higher brain regions. Such findings suggest nested-hierarchies of BrainMind affective processing, with primal emotional functions being foundational for secondary-process learning and memory mechanisms, which interface with tertiary-process cognitive-thoughtful functions of the BrainMind. © 2011 Jaak Panksepp.

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