What is an emotional feeling? Lessons about affective origins from cross-species neuroscience

Cross-species affective neuroscience aspires to provide an evidence-based foundation for understanding the primary-process emotional networks that concurrently control instinctual emotional actions and affective feelings-direct emotional circuit mediated ‘rewards’ and ‘punishments’. In humans and other mammals, the ancestral subcortical regions of the brain are central to such affective BrainMind functions (a monistic term, here used synonymously with MindBrain, depending on stylistic needs). Although these circuits cannot be ‘identical’ across species (that would be incompatible with evolutionary principles) they are sufficiently similar, anatomically, neurochemically and functionally, to allow animal brain research to illuminate (yield testable predictions) about homologous human mind functions. Primal emotional feelings (affects) are inbuilt value functions of the brain that energize and inform the rest of the mental apparatus about basic survival values, thereby promoting secondary-process learning/memory functions and tertiary-process cognitive thinking-ruminative functions, yielding bottom-up evolutionary controls that ultimately allow top-down regulatory controls. As we envision how such “nested ” hierarchies-two-way paths of causality-reflecting both bottom-up and top-down functions-we will need disciplined distinctions between cognitions and emotions at the primary-process level, while also accepting total interpenetrance of cognitions and affects at the tertiary-process level of MindBrain organization. This allows full and synergistic integration of basic and dimensional approaches to emotions. Here the primal emotional networks, so critically important for understanding ‘human-nature’ and psychiatric disorders, are discussed didactically in ways that can minimize dilemmas that non-evolutionary, non-hierarchical perspectives are subject to in modern emotion research. © 2011 Springer Science+Business Media, LLC.

Cross-species affective neuroscience aspires to provide an evidence-based foundation for understanding the primary-process emotional networks that concurrently control instinctual emotional actions and affective feelings-direct emotional circuit mediated ‘rewards’ and ‘punishments’. In humans and other mammals, the ancestral subcortical regions of the brain are central to such affective BrainMind functions (a monistic term, here used synonymously with MindBrain, depending on stylistic needs). Although these circuits cannot be ‘identical’ across species (that would be incompatible with evolutionary principles) they are sufficiently similar, anatomically, neurochemically and functionally, to allow animal brain research to illuminate (yield testable predictions) about homologous human mind functions. Primal emotional feelings (affects) are inbuilt value functions of the brain that energize and inform the rest of the mental apparatus about basic survival values, thereby promoting secondary-process learning/memory functions and tertiary-process cognitive thinking-ruminative functions, yielding bottom-up evolutionary controls that ultimately allow top-down regulatory controls. As we envision how such “nested ” hierarchies-two-way paths of causality-reflecting both bottom-up and top-down functions-we will need disciplined distinctions between cognitions and emotions at the primary-process level, while also accepting total interpenetrance of cognitions and affects at the tertiary-process level of MindBrain organization. This allows full and synergistic integration of basic and dimensional approaches to emotions. Here the primal emotional networks, so critically important for understanding ‘human-nature’ and psychiatric disorders, are discussed didactically in ways that can minimize dilemmas that non-evolutionary, non-hierarchical perspectives are subject to in modern emotion research. © 2011 Springer Science+Business Media, LLC.

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