Basic Emotional Operating Systems Of The Brain Animal Studies

Let us now briefly consider emotions from the basic animal research side. The core of emotionality resides within the intrinsic subcortical systems of the brain that emerged in deep-time via evolutionary selection to provide organisms certain basic tools for survival. At least seven core emotional systems that course through subcortical regions of the mammalian brain have been provisionally identified (Panksepp, 1998a; the systems are capitalized to highlight that specific brain networks are the referents). They include (1) a dopamine-facilitated appetitive motivation SEEKING system that promotes energetic exploratory searching, foraging, and, with learning, specific goal-directed activities; (2) a FEAR network that mediates flight and freezing, with accompanying anxious feelings, which courses between the amygdala, bed nucleus of the stria terminalis and the periaqueductal gray (PAG) of the mesencephalon; (3) a RAGE (or defensive aggression) system, running approximately in parallel to FEAR circuitry, that promotes aggressive acts and feelings of anger and irritation; (4) a separation distress or PANIC system that triggers separation-induced crying (perhaps foundational for human grieving, sadness, and depressive moods related to loss) and elaborates bonding urges related to social attachments; (5) several LUST systems that contribute distinctly to female and male sexuality and associated erotic feelings; (6) a CARE system to promote maternal nurturance and presumably feelings of love and devotion; (7) a PLAY system that instigates youthful rough-and-tumble playfulness and other ludic activities (e.g., laughter) that may be primal brain ingredients for joyful affect.

Yet other emotional systems may exist, such as those that promote social dominance, but this tendency may reflect maturational effects of the childhood PLAY system, as they interact with FEAR and RAGE systems. In other words, many emergent emotions may arise epigenetically from core emotional systems that interact develop-mentally with each other and higher cognitive processes. Although these core systems may not be sufficient to evoke the designated affective states, they may be necessary for various distinct emotional affects to emerge in the brain. Although our understanding of these basic emotional networks is far from definitive, the existence of such circuits can focus our neurobiological research efforts in ways that can yield new psychiatric concepts as well as medicines (Chapter 21).

Before proceeding, we would only note that there are many other affective processes in the brain, including those related to specific motivational systems, such as thirst, hunger, and thermoregulation, as well as various sensory rewards associated with alleviation of these bodily imbalances. The general principle here is that negative affective states are generated when bodily states deviate from homeostatic equilibrium, and various forms of pleasure are experienced as organisms indulge in activities that restore bodily imbalances toward normal. Many of these sensory affects are conveyed, in part, by release of opioids in the brain (Panksepp, 1998a; Van Ree et al., 2000). We will not focus on those issues here, but rather upon the instinctual action apparatus that constitutes the basic emotional urges of the mammalian brain. There is space here only to portray these systems in broad strokes, with minimal referencing, but a detailed coverage is available elsewhere (Panksepp, 1998a, 2000, 2001), and how each of these systems may relate to drug development initiatives is outlined in Chapter 21.

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