The psycho-neurology of cross-species affective/social neuroscience: Understanding animal affective states as a guide to development of novel psychiatric treatments

During the past half century of research with preclinical animal models, affective neuroscience has helped identify and illuminate the functional neuroanatomies and neurochemistries of seven primary process, i.e., genetically provided emotional systems of mammalian brains. All are subcortically localized, allowing animal models to guide the needed behavioral and neuroscientific analyses at levels of detail that cannot be achieved through human research, including modern brain imaging. They consist of the following neuronal processes: SEEKING/Enthusiasm, RAGE/Anger, FEAR/Anxiety, sexual LUST/Passion, maternal CARE/Nurturance, separation-distress PANIC/Grief and PLAY/Social Joy. Several of these systems figure heavily in social bonding. I will focus here especially on the genesis of depression. Its genesis is significantly influenced by (i) sustained overactivity of the separation-distress PANIC system reflecting severed social bonds and the excessive “psychological pain ” of loneliness that can, if sustained, lead to a downward cascade known as psychological despair, and (ii) the despair phase that follows the acute PANIC response, which is characterized by abnormally low activity of the SEEKING, the so-called brain reward networks, leading to amotivational states that characterize depression. Depressive affect is promoted by such brain affective mechanisms of social attachments and social loss as well as diminished arousability of the SEEKING system, leading to chronic dysphoria. To understand why depression feels so bad, we must understand the neural mechanisms that mediate such social feelings. © Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016.

During the past half century of research with preclinical animal models, affective neuroscience has helped identify and illuminate the functional neuroanatomies and neurochemistries of seven primary process, i.e., genetically provided emotional systems of mammalian brains. All are subcortically localized, allowing animal models to guide the needed behavioral and neuroscientific analyses at levels of detail that cannot be achieved through human research, including modern brain imaging. They consist of the following neuronal processes: SEEKING/Enthusiasm, RAGE/Anger, FEAR/Anxiety, sexual LUST/Passion, maternal CARE/Nurturance, separation-distress PANIC/Grief and PLAY/Social Joy. Several of these systems figure heavily in social bonding. I will focus here especially on the genesis of depression. Its genesis is significantly influenced by (i) sustained overactivity of the separation-distress PANIC system reflecting severed social bonds and the excessive “psychological pain ” of loneliness that can, if sustained, lead to a downward cascade known as psychological despair, and (ii) the despair phase that follows the acute PANIC response, which is characterized by abnormally low activity of the SEEKING, the so-called brain reward networks, leading to amotivational states that characterize depression. Depressive affect is promoted by such brain affective mechanisms of social attachments and social loss as well as diminished arousability of the SEEKING system, leading to chronic dysphoria. To understand why depression feels so bad, we must understand the neural mechanisms that mediate such social feelings. © Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016.

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