Sunday, May 19, 2013

Jaak Panksepp and Lucy Biven, The Archaeology of Mind, Neuroevolutionary Origins of Human Emotions (2012)

At its most fundamental level, the neurosensory system of every animal, including humans, is a physiological system related to monitoring our entire physical system, whether the animal is awake or not, and, when awake (including the sleep-wake transition period), reacting to stimuli.  The latter is referred to as the arousal system.  In the case of vertebrates, four neurotransmitters (chemicals) --- acetylcholine, norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin --- stimulate different arousal systems originating in the brain stem, evolutionarily the oldest part of the vertebrate brain, and motivate certain behaviors such as seeking food, flight or fight behavior, and sexual activity.  There are certain emotional systems that are virtually at the core of the arousal system, at least during periods of wakefulness, and for several decades now, Jaak Panksepp has been researching and advocating that these emotional systems have their origins with animals evolutionarily older than humans, located in the older subcortical areas of mammalian brains and only later connected with the cortical areas. 

The Archaeology of Mind begins and ends with vertebrate animals, yet the evolutionary story is older, and to tell the story of what is missing from Panksepp's account I excerpt heavily from Steven Rose's The Future of the Brain, which outlines the evolution of the brain from unicellular organisms, to eukaryotes, to invertebrate animals and vertebrates.  This excerpting is important to a point I wish to make.  Rose says this:

"By the time that cells capable of metabolism and faithful replication, of symbiogenesis and competition appear, all the defining features of life have emerged:  the presence of a semi-permeable boundary separating self from non-self; the ability to metabolise -- that is, to extract energy from the environment so as to maintain this self --- and to self-repair, at least to a degree when damaged; and to reproduce copies of this self more or less faithfully.  All of these features require something we may term adaptability or behavior --- the capacity to respond to and act upon the environment in such a way as to enhance survival and replication.  At its simplest, this behavior requires neither brains nor  nervous systems, albeit a sophisticated set of chemical and structural features.  What it does require is the property that some would call a program:  at its most general way of describing both the individual chemical components of the cell and the kinetics of their interactions as the cell or living system persists through time. ***

"Built into this program must also be the possibility of modifying its expression, transiently or lastingly, in response to the changing contingencies of the external environment.  *** One way of conceiving of this capacity to vary a program is as an action plan, an 'internal representation' of the desired goal-- at its minimum, that of survival at least until replication is achieved.  I will be arguing that, in multicellular organisms, such action plans are ultimately what brains are about.

"Amongst the most basic forms of adaptive behavior drawing on such action plans is goal-directed movement-- of a unicell swimming towards food for instance. [Emphasis added].  Dip a thin capillary tube containing a solution of glucose into a drop of bacteria-rich liquid, and the bacteria collect around the mouth of the capillary from which the glucose diffuses--a phenomenon first noted as long ago as the nineteenth century.  Such simple responses engage a series of necessary steps.  First, the cell needs to be able to sense the food.  In the simplest case the food is a source of desirable chemicals --- perhaps sugars or amino acids-- although it may also be the metabolic waste products excreted by another organism.  Indeed the molecule does not have to be edible itself provided it can indicate the presence of other molecules that can be metabolized-- that is, it acts as a signal.  *** But signals are only signals if there is recipient who can interpret the message they bear.  Cell membranes are studded with proteins whose structure is adapted to enable them to trap and bind specific signaling molecules floating past them, and hence read their message.  This chemical detection system is the most basic of all sensory mechanisms.

"Interpreting the message --- using it to develop a plan of action -- should make it possible for the cell to determine the direction of the gradient and finally to move up it to the source.  Moving towards a specific chemical source --- chemotaxis --- requires that the cell possess some sort of direction indicator or compass.  One way of creating such a compass, employed by bacteria, is to swim in a jerky trajectory, enabling the cell to interpret the gradient by comparing the concentration of the attractant chemical at any moment with that a moment before.***"

If Jaak Panksepp were reading this passage he would certainly connect it to his research of emotions in animal brains.  It describes the precursor to what Panksepp regards as the most central emotional system in mammals: the SEEKING system (see below).  Rose continues:

"The molecules trapped by the receptor on the surface membrane serve as signals, but very weak ones.  To produce as dramatic a cellular response as turning and moving in the right direction requires that signals are highly amplified.  The mechanism by which this is carried out, even in the seemingly simplest of unicells turns out to be the basis on which the entire complex apparatus of nervous systems and brains is subsequently built.  The receptors are large proteins, oriented across the lipid membrane, with regions sticking out into the external environment, and also 'tails' which reach into the interior of the cell (the cytoplasm).  When the signal receptor binds to the receptor protein its effect is to force a change -- a twist, if you like -- in the complex shape of the receptor.  ***

"One way of speaking of this process, favoured by neurologist Antonio Damasio, even in so limited an animal as Paramecium, is as 'expressing an emotion.'   Emotion for Damasio, is a fundamental aspect of existing and a major driver of evolution.

"*** With multicellularity, 'behaviour' becomes a property of the organism as a whole, to which 'needs' of individual cells are subordinated.  The internal representation which makes possible the action plan for organism can be delegated to specific cell ensembles.  This requires new modes of communication to be developed.  Where previously there were only two classes of signals -- those arriving from the external environment to the cell surface, and those internal to the cell --- there are now three.  Signals from the external environment are still registered by sensory cells on the surface and are transmuted by molecular cascades with them, but now the response to those cascades requires that further messages be sent from the sensory cells to other regions of the body, including of course the contractile cells.  Sometimes the sensory cells make contact with intermediaries whose task it is to synthesise and secrete the necessary 'messenger molecules.'  [Emphasis added]. The messengers can then be distributed through the body either by way of a circulatory system or by diffusion through the extracellular space between the body cells, and are detected as before by specialized receptor proteins on the surface membranes of their targets.  When molecules that served such messenger functions were first identified in mammals, they were given the generic name of hormones.  It was only later, and to some surprise, that it was discovered that many of the same molecules also serve as intercellular signals in very early multicellular organisms, another powerful example of evolutionary conservation.***

"It is easy to imagine a sequence whereby neurons evolved from secretory cells.  Instead of discharging their contents generally into the surrounding space and circulatory system, the secretory cells could have put out feelers (called 'processes') enabling them to make direct contact with their targets so as to signal rapidly to them and them alone.  Messages could be conveyed between the two either electrically or chemically --- by a depolarizing wave or by secreting a messenger molecule across the membrane at the point where the two cells touch.  In fact, both phenomena are know to occur.

"The first step towards such nervous systems can be seen among the large group of Coelenterates, believed to be amongst the earliest true multicellular animals.  The best known is perhaps the Hydra, a tiny creature that sits at the bottom of streams attached to rocks or water plants, waving its tentacles above its mouth.   When a potential source of food brushes past its tentacles, the Hydra shoots out poisonous threads, collects the paralysed victim and thrusts it into its mouth.  *** A well fed Hydra is quiescent; when hungry it waves its tentacles vigorously, or moves its location by repeatedly turning head-over-heals, seeking food-rich or oxygen-rich environments (once again, Damasio would regard these acts 'expressing emotions').***

"What distinguishes a fully-fledged nervous system --- our own for instance --- is a one-way flow of information through the system, from dendrites to axon, from sensory cell to effector.  Of course this is mediated via all the feedback loops, but none the less there is a directionality to it that the Hydra's does not possess.

"Whereas the Hydra's neurons are scattered throughout the body, the next crucial step was to concentrate them within an organized system. *** C. elegans  has a head and tail end, and as it is more important for it to know where it is going than where it has been, many of its sensory cells are clustered at its head end.  From these, nerve connections run to clusters of interneurons, pack into groups (ganglia) with short interconnecting processes between the cells within the group and longer nerve tracts leading out along its gut and ultimately to the effectors:  contractile, egg- and sperm producing cells.  These neurons use many of the neurotransmitters that are found in mammalian brains (notably the amino acid glutamate), an indication of how far back in evolutionary terms these molecules were adapted for signaling functions.***

"The evolutionary track I have been mapping," writes Rose, "has led from proto-cells to faithfully replicating eukaryotes capable of responding adaptively to patchy environments, from single-celled eukaryotes to multicellular animals with internal signaling systems, and from these to fully-fledged nervous systems capable not merely constructing action plans, but of modifying those plans, at least temporarily, in response to environmental contingencies.  But we haven't yet arrived at brains.  This must have been the next step along the evolutionary path that led to humans.  Concentrating neurons in ganglia is a way of enhancing their interactions and hence their collective power to analyze and respond to incoming stimuli.  Locating them at the front end of the organism is the beginning of establishing not merely a nervous system but a brain, though head ganglia or brains only slowly begin to exert their primacy over the other ganglia distributed through the body.*** [Turning to invertebrates] although insect (arthropod) and molluscan neurons are pretty similar to human neurons, and the biochemical motors that drive the system -- their electrically excitable membranes and the neurotransmitters --- work in the same way, the organization of the system is entirely different.  In molluscs and arthropods the central ganglion --- the nearest any amongst these huge numbers of species have to a brain --- and the principal connecting pathways between it and other ganglia lie arranged in a ring around their guts.  This is a device that can be seen even in earthworms, and it imposes a fundamental design limitation on the complexity of the nervous system.***

"The development of large brains required two major changes in the construction of nervous systems:  the separation of the nerves themselves from the gut, and the concentration of nervous power.  It also required the first step towards the development of a bony skeleton.  Amphioxus,  small sea-floor fish, is an example.  Less behaviourally sophisticated than octopus or bee, it has a flexible rod of cartilage, a notochord, running down its back --- the forerunner of the spinal column --- with the merit of providing a bracing device against which muscles can pull.  More relevantly for the present argument is that eh major nerves and central ganglion lie in a continuous tube running the length of the creature's body, thus disentangling them from the gut and giving space for growth."

We have not even discussed Panksepp's research yet, but there is much here in Steven Rose's account of the evolutionary development of the animal nervous system that indicates the system of neurotransmitters and specialized receptors found in vertebrates long preceded the development of the brain stem in vertebrates.  And there is a suggestion by Steven Rose that this system was capable of "expressing emotions," although probably not in the same sense that Panksepp intends.  But it would be fair to say that human emotional systems and those of other mammals not only have their origins in vertebrate animals older than humans, but in the earliest forms of life on earth.  This is an anthropomorphic view of human emotions as described by Frans DeWaal in The Ape and The Sushi Master (see June 17, 2010 post).  To be sure, Panksepp is careful to admonish in his discussion of similarities between the neurological systems of humans and other mammals that "similar does not mean the same."  There are similar structures and similar transmitters and receptors in the brain, but their location within the brain may be slightly different or even vastly different, and those differences may result in small or even large differences between humans and other mammals.  But in identifying these similarities, Panksepp observes, as the book's subtitle hints, the neuroevolutionary origins of human emotions.  Panksepp decries the history of human psychological research that declined to recognize emotions in animals.  There is considerable research available today that rebuts that notion.

Panksepp discusses several emotional systems, but central to nearly all of them is what he has labeled the SEEKING system.  And in beginning this discussion, we can think back to Steven Rose's reference to the "goal-directed movement-- of a unicell swimming towards food for instance." 

Panksepp is controversial within the neuropsychiatric community, challenging some of the dogmas of neuroscience and human psychotherapy.  One of the dogmas is reflected in this statement from Rita Carter's Mapping the Mind (see November 6, 2011 post):  "A huge volume of evidence suggests that consciousness emerges from the activity of the cerebral cortex that the particular type of consciousness that includes the sense of self requires activation in the frontal lobes.  Ask yourself this:  Where, precisely, do I feel that "I" am centered?  If you are like most people, you will point to a position just above the bridge of your nose.  It is right behind here that you will find the prefrontal cortex --- the area of the frontal lobe most closely associated with the generation of consciousness.  This region is also responsible for our conscious perception of emotion and our ability to attend and focus.  Most important of all, it endows the world with meaning and our lives with a sense of purpose.  The symptoms of schizophrenia, depression, mania and Attention Deficit Disorder are mainly due to frontal lobe disorder."  Carter's sentiment reflects a view that leads psychotherapists to focus on treating the executive, regulatory capacity of the human brain in the frontal cortex in order to overcome these disorders.  While Panksepp does not dismiss the role of the prefrontal cortex in the conscious life of humans, he does disagree with the directionality implicit in this statement:  for Panksepp, like Antonio Damasio (see April 8, 2011 post) "the generation of consciousness" begins with the evolutionarily older parts of the brain --- in the midbrain, where neurotransmitters are generated  --- as well as the limbic system, which together are at the foundation of the seven emotional systems he describes in Archaeology of Mind.   It is here that the "core self" of consciousness emerges, or as Panksepp calls it, the core affective self.  The symptoms of certain mental disorders, Panksepp believes, are not "mainly due to frontal lobe disorder" but may have more to do with the imbalanced (excessive or diminished) production of specific chemicals in the brain in the more ancient parts of the brain.  And as the previous post suggests, epigenetics provide some explanation in the case of stress disorders caused by early childhood abuse leading to excessive production of cortisol that overwhelms the ability of the limbic system to restore calm. 

The seven emotional systems described by Panksepp (and he does not rule out that there may be more) are these:

The Seeking System.  This does not immediately sound like it describes an emotional system, but clearly Panksepp is correct in characterizing the Seeking System.  This is the system "that allows animals to search for, find and acquire resources that are needed for survival.  Arousal of this Seeking System produces all kinds of approach behaviors, but it also feels good in a special way.  It is not the kind of pleasure we experience when eating a fine meal, or the satisfaction we feel afterwards.  Rather it provides the kind of excited, euphoric anticipation that occurs when we look forward to eating that meal . . . the anticipation of sex . . . the thrill of exploration."  Panksepp refers to the Seeking System as the primary process emotional powers that makes animals into active agents in their environments.  "Among animals in the wild, it is easy to see the Seeking system in action.  Resources are not readily available and animals must persistently seek them out in order to survive.  They must hunt or forage for food and search for water, find twigs or dig holes to fashion sheltering nests.  The Seeking system urges them to nurture their young, to search for a sexual partner, and when animals live in social communities, to also find nonsexual companions, forming friendships and social alliances. . . Although this system vigorously responds to homeostatic needs, to emotional urges and to enticing temptations, it operates more or less continuously in the background, albeit at much lower levels when people and animals are not in any particular need of resources or troubled by problems that urgently require solutions.  This system keeps animals constantly exploring their environments so they can remember where resources are."  Importantly, in Panksepp's view, it is the Seeking System that is the motivator behind the intellectual pursuits of the neocortex:  "the neocortex does not provide its own motivation; the neocortex is activated by subcortical emotional systems . . . the neocortex is the servant of our emotional systems."  It is the Seeking System that urges architects, artists, writers, politicians, and scientists to discover new and better ways to solve problems and express themselves.  It "energizes all human creativity."  Seeking arousal "is an anticipatory gift of nature that provides seemingly infinite opportunities for learning; with the developmental/epigenetic emergence of higher mental processes, it gradually fine-tunes reasonable expectations, working hypotheses, as in the conduct of science."  It is intimately connected with learning, which Panksepp describes as an "automatic, unconscious process that enhances are natural proclivity to engage with the world in ever more subtle ways as our minds mature."  In contrast, affect (behavioral outcomes connected to arousal of instinctual emotional systems) is never unconscious; it is felt.

Chemically, the Seeking System is understood to be aroused by dopamine transmitters, but glutamate, which functions in learning and memory, and neuropeptides such as orexin and neurotensin are understood to activate the Seeking System while dynorphin is believed to deactivate it.  The neurons for these transmitters are found in the midbrain:  anatomically, ventral tegmental area, the medial forebrain bundle, the lateral hypothalamus, the nucleus accumbens, and then running to the medial prefrontal cortex via the mesolimbic and mesocortical dopamine pathways.  "In all mammals," notes Panksepp, "the nucleus accumbens interacts with the medial frontal cortex to promote simple appetitive learning (and addictions).  Because the Seeking System energizes the frontal neocortical regions, especially the medial zones that focus on immediate emotional needs, we are able to devise strategies to obtain rewards and escape sanctions (pain) and other pitfalls.  We remember particularly pleasurable experiences and the possibility of addiction is created.  Dopamine transmitters are associated with drugs of abuse, and when they are overly excited there can be negative consequences from addiction.  On the other hand, when the Seeking System is underactive, depressive feelings can emerge. Humans differ from other animals here in one important respect; the dopamine pathways that energize the cortex are linked not only to the frontal cortex but to other sensory-perceptual cortices in the back of the brain.

The Rage System.  The Rage System needs little explanation:  the foundation of anger and aggression.  What it is not deserves some explanation:  it probably has little to do with war among societies (group aggression), nor is it about predatory aggression such as seeking food.  In contrast to the Seeking System, which is largely a "positive" emotion, the Rage System produces unpleasant affects.  The Rage System is connected to dominance systems in species.  The Rage System runs from the medial areas of the amygdala to the medial hypothalamus to areas of the periaqueductal gray (PAG). As with the Seeking System (and all the other emotional systems Panksepp describes), these are the ancient areas of the brain.  The chemicals that can promote rage include testosterone (known to promote physical aggression in males to a greater extent than females), Substance P (important to pain perception), norepinephrine, glutamate, acetylcholine, and nitric oxide synthases.  The Rage System can be controlled by chemical inhibitors such as gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and oxytocin

The Fear System.  Similarly, the Fear System needs little explanation.  Like the Rage System, it is not a positive emotion; it produces anxiety, stimulates flight, fight or freezing.  The Fear System operates between the PAG and the amygdala and it is aroused by external and internal stimuli, notably pain, but some responses appear to be innate caused by hard-wired sensory inputs.  Panksepp mentions rats fear of open spaces, sudden movements and loud noises as example innate fear responses.  But fear is connected to memory as well, and memory plays a significant role in conditioning fear responses.  On memory, Panksepp explains, that learning and memory are automatic and involuntary responses (mediated by unconscious mechanisms of the brain), which in their most lasting forms are commonly tethered to emotional arousal. Emotional arousal is a necessary condition for the creation of fear-learning memories.

The Lust System. The Lust System drives basic mammalian physical impulses (sexual affects) on the one hand and social emotions on the other, which can be both positive and negative.  It can drive anti-social behavior (rape, stalking) as well as building families and promoting other forms of well-being.  In the male brain the center of primary sexual urges is in the medial regions of the anterior hypothalamus, (although Panksepp notes that "the precise brain location varies from one species to another).  Testosterone stimulates pleasure in the male, which activates neuropeptides such as vasopressin and promotes sexual ardor, courtship, intermale aggression and possibly jealousy.  Testosterone also activates nitric oxide in the brain, which promotes heightened sexual eagerness.    In females, estrogen and progesterone (the estrus cycle) controls sexual arousal, but adrenal testosterone plays a role in sexual receptivity.  The Lust System, Panksepp says, "recruits" the Seeking System "dopamine-fueled search for companionship.

The Care System.  The Care System is not universal in the animal kingdom, but nearly all mammals and birds exhibit maternal care for their young.  In fish, the job of tending to a nest of eggs is left to fathers, and the brain circuits that drive this behavior Panksepp calls the Care System.  Panksepp notes that researchers learned of the existence of the Care System in mammals when they discovered that blood transfusions from postpartum female rats to virgin rats would lead to maternal behavior in the virgin rats, including nest building, hovering over young, and gathering the young who strayed from the nest.  Panksepp concedes that researchers still do not which chemicals in the transferred blood interact in the brains of virgin rats to cause these behaviors, but given similarities between the urge to provide Care and the urges underlying the Seeking System, brain arousal from dopamine in conjunction with opioids, as well as oxytocin and prolactin are likely involved.  Panksepp hypothesizes that the evolution of the Care System might be traced back to chemicals found in the Lust circuits of reptiles, such as vasotocin, which has a calming effect and promotes nurturant moods in some birds, and neuropeptides like mesotocin that may have evolved in vasopressin and oxytocin, which is recognized as a key maternal chemical.  The maternal (and paternal) nurturing behavior must be recognized as a critical factor in the development of social brain systems.  Research shows that both oxytocin and vasopressin strengthen social memories and are believed to be promote social bonds among mammals.  (See July 16, 2010 post).

Research on the Care System in rats also reveals evidence of epigenetic changes leading to more prosocial behavior.  Female rats lick their pups during early development and this has been shown to influence the emotional abilities of young rats later in life.  Abundantly licked rats grow up to be less anxious, more resistant to stress, and more capable of exhibiting learning and other adaptive behavior later in life.  These adult rats have diminished stress hormones (corticotrophin-releasing factor (CRF)) and adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH), more GABA receptor cites, which promotes reduced anxiety, and more receptors for glutamate and norepinephrine, which facilitate learning.  Emotionally, these animals are less anxious, showing more activity and fearlessness, and better learning and performance in a variety of fear-inducing situations.  This research could have been cited by Nessa Carey in The Epigenetic Revolution.  (See April 28, 2013 post). 

The Panic/Grief System.  Panic and grief intuitively seem like strange bedfellows but the common emotional/behavioral link in this "system" is separation anxiety, something that is seen across a number of species.  Grief connotes a sadness that arises from social loss; panic connotes a separation from a secure or stable environment.  Immediately, one can conjure linkages between what Panksepp labels the Panic/Grief System and the Care System, the Fear System.  The Panic System is seen in early childhood development over anxiety in separation of mother and child ("Born to Cry" is the title of this chapter), but it has also been found to be less active in adults.  The Panic/Grief circuits are found in several of the same subcortical areas identified with other systems, including the PAG and surrounding subcortical regions including the dorsomedial thalamus, the ventral septial area, the dorsal preoptic area and the bed nucleus of stria terminalis.  Previously identified stress neuropeptides such as CRF and  ACTH, and glutamate (an excitatory neurotransmitter associated with every emotional response) arouse the Grief System.  Imbalances in the Grief System are a key factor in a variety of emotional disorders because so much mental illness, Panksepp notes, is rooted in the incapacity to enjoy the security of warm interpersonal attachments.  Panic attacks, depression, autism, and a variety of other social phobias are part of the Grief pathologies.  The identification of neuropeptides that actually diminish separation distress and mediate the Care System, such as oxytocin and prolactin,and the stimulation of mu-opioid receptors in the brain may have role in treatments of these disorders.

The Play System.  Finally, but not least, something that one might not think of as an emotional system, but Panksepp clearly documents that it is, particularly in mammals: the Play System.  "Physical playfulness is a birthright of every young mammal and perhaps of many other animals as well. . . It is now certain that a genetically determined Play network that mediates positive affect exists in mammalian brains, although many details remain to be worked out."  The Play System is likewise concentrated in subcortical brain regions, intimately linked to the Seeking System: the urge to play is like a type of hunger, and is not necessarily a social need, although it is linked to social emotional systems. Play is linked to the capacity to laugh, a positive emotional affect. Laughter is not merely found in humans, but also noises made by rats, chirping of birds.  Laughter is stimulated early in children, including mimicry.  Like the Seeking System, dopamine, which is engaged during activity that entails considerable positive anticipation and euphoria, is believed to fuel the Play System because it is aroused (correlated) during play.  Play activates sensory inputs, such as touch, which go directly to older midline regions of the brain such as the parafascicular complex and the posterior dorsomedial thalamic regions. 

In the foregoing, I have catalogued for each of Panksepp's seven emotional systems of the brain the suspected chemistries and at the outset I tried to demonstrate that research documents the ancient role of chemicals in the neurological systems of species and their potential link to the development of emotional system.  My objective in this outline is to highlight a point in a previous post about social emotions, including moral emotions.  In his book Moral Origins, Christopher Boehm concludes by saying that in a few generations we "may have identified some of the genetic mechanisms that help us to behave egoistically, nepotistically, and altruistically, along with others that make for sympathetic generosity, domination and submission, and a variety of other socially significant behaviors that are relevant to morality, including our shame responses."  The earlier post (see November 21, 2012 post) observed that "Boehm may well be right that we will identify the genetic mechanisms behind moral and immoral behavior in a few generations, but the roadmap of investigation is already before us and it begins with emotions.  I say this for two reasons:  first, if anything, genes code for our body chemistry; genes may or may not code for specific behavior (moral or otherwise), although I doubt it (see November 30, 2009 post).  But emotions are driven by electro-chemical actions and reactions in our various body systems and ultimately the neurological system leading to our brains, and genes do code for these electro-chemical actions and reactions and genes code for our brain and other body organs.  If we want to understand the genetic basis for moral and immoral behavior we will look for the genes tied to these body systems and the chemistry that drives emotions."   Panksepp's aggregation of the research on these primary process emotions is a good peek into the links between genes, chemistries, and anatomical structures related to emotions.  In addition to linking genes with the chemicals and brain structures that drive these emotional systems, the inquiry contemplated by Boehm would presumably link these seven emotional systems to other more complex emotional systems not considered "primary process" systems,  including the social emotions discussed in the November 21, 2012 post such as embarrassment, shame, guilt, contempt, indignation, sympathy, compassion, awe, gratitude, and pride. 

One cannot help read The Archaeology of Mind without feeling that Panksepp believes he has been walking in the wilderness of neuroscientific research that treats emotional systems as fundamental, more fundamental than research of the neocortex.  While he now believes that Antonio Damasio has joined his crusade with the publication of Self Comes to Mind (see April 8, 2011 post), in which Damasio gave a tip of the hat to Panksepp's research, Panksepp is skeptical of Damasio's earlier somatic marker hypothesis and the assertion that core consciousness (a higher order mapping process outside the subcortical regions) generates inner emotional feelings of what is happening by synthesizing information from maps abut the body and about the environment. As stated earlier, it is the subcortical emotional system that energizes the neocortex, says Panksepp, not the other way around.  Fundamentally, Panksepp believes that mental and emotional disorders go hand in hand and are best understood as a chemical problem, and when understood in that leads to two important conclusions:  (1) that chemistry will have a key role in providing treatment, and (2) it will cause psychotherapists to recognize that treatment must deal with the emotional aspects of the older subcortical parts of the brain.  For Panksepp, the key question for all neuroscientists and biological psychiatrists is this:  "How are raw affective experiences created in the brain?"  The answer he believes will clarify the foundational nature of experience in general as well as affective disturbances.  For example, Panksepp writes, for depression he would ask:  Why does depression feel so bad?  Why does depression hurt?  Why is it so psychologically painful?  What does it mean to experience social pain?  Few neuroscientists have been willing to ask these questions.

One cannot conclude a statement about Panksepp's research without noting what he neither ignores, but nonetheless does not dwell on: the role of the cortical areas of the brain in human consciousness.  When he does acknowledge higher order BrainMind structures, he says this:  "Although arousals of the primary process emotional networks of mammalian brains are intensely experienced by humans and other animals, it is especially important to recognize that the secondary processes of the BrainMind, the basic forms of learning, memory, and habit formation are among the most unconscious 'mental' processes of them all.  Once we understand this, then many of the bizarre and faulty views from psychology's past may be rectified.  For instance, 'free will' is not a figment of our imagination as too many scientists are ready to claim these days.  Free will is a higher tertiary-level neurocognitive function that we use on a regular basis (and quite effectively when we are not too emotionally aroused) for future planning actions.  This is brought out beautifully in the concept of 'autonomy' and 'self-determination' as developed by Ryan and Deci (2006).  However, we cannot readily will ourselves out of underlying emotional turmoil that has been created through the consolidation of maladaptive affective patterns at primary and secondary levels of BrainMind organization.  At primary-process levels of emotional processing there is no free will, there is no 'controlled cognitions.' Neither do the automatic secondary processes of learning and memory functions, that are molded by our wild animal passions developmentally, exhibit free will.  That can only emerge from well-sculpted, deeply reflective, cognitive attitudes."  He adds, "It is surely our vast cerebral 'thinking cap' --- our extensive cortico-cognitive apparatus --- that distinguishes us mentally from our animal ancestors.  That adds layers of complexity that cannot be readily addressed with animal models."  Michael Gazzaniga would agree.  (See September 27, 2009 post). But "language," Panksepp says," our most unique cerebral skill, "emerges through emotional guidance.  Through language, however, we can uniquely study the extended tertiary-process cognitive affective consciousness of humans.  And this is why there continues to be enormous growth in descriptive (ie. nonneuroscientific) emotion studies in psychology (Davidson et all., 2003)." 

And with that paragraph, I pull the next book off of The Bookshelf. 

No comments:

Post a Comment