Concluding Remarks

To understand the nature of fear and the other emotions, we must consider how affective experiences are constructed in the brain. Since subjective psychodynamic issues are so difficult to address with standardized empirical procedures, we typically must infer such processes indirectly from behavioral endpoints. Unfortunately, the details of the relevant brain mechanisms are typically inaccessible in human research. Hence, substantive progress on such questions will require investments in appropriate animal models in which the neurobiological details can be unraveled. It is still a debatable issue which behavioral measures are best for monitoring the various affective states, but novel inroads have been made on such issues (Knutson et al., 2002; Panksepp et al., 2002).

Also, brain imaging techniques may eventually be able to monitor emotional feelings directly from the human brain (e.g., see Chapter 2 and 7; Damasio et al., 2000), but validation of such issues may require the use of neurochemical and pharmacological challenges that have been derived from theoretically guided animal research.

Although the issue of subjective emotional experiences in animals has been downplayed by modern neurobehaviorists (see LeDoux, 1996), it is not difficult to envision how affective states such as fear could facilitate adaptive behavioral strategies in the nervous system (Panksepp, 1999a,b). If other mammals do, in fact, experience subjective emotional states such as fear, then it may be possible to study the underlying brain mechanisms reasonably directly through an analysis of their instinctual emotional behaviors and arrive at credible working hypotheses concerning the evolutionary sources of basic human affective capacities. In other words, the only direct readout of evolutionarily engraved central networks of the brain are the natural behaviors that animals exhibit. If a study of those ancient instinctual operating systems of the animal brain is a major key to understanding how the human mind is emotionally organized, then an intensive study of those circuits should yield new neurochemical insights for psychiatric practice.

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