HOME

 

 

    NEWS

INTERVIEWS

RESOURCES

ABOUT

View by:

 SUBJECT

 THEME

QUESTION

  TERM

 PERSON

   EVENT

LeDoux, Joseph E. “Emotions: A View through the Brain."

In his second essay for this volume, “Emotions: A View through the Brain,” Joseph E. LeDoux provides an argument for his claim that the scientific investigation of emotion requires a distinction between emotional behavior or associated physiological responses and the subjective feelings experienced by humans. Emotional behavior can be understood by the evolutionist in terms of the function it serves in human and animal life. Emotional feelings must be seen as secondary since emotional behavior is present in organisms that do not have the capacity for conscious awareness. LeDoux defines emotional feelings as a result of sophisticated brains being aware of their own activities - in this case, being aware that an emotion system, such as the fear system, is activated. The problem of explaining emotional feelings is a part of the single problem of the explanation of consciousness. However, different emotional behavior or response systems may involve different brain mechanisms. Here LeDoux is critical of the “limbic-system” theory, a theory that sought to identify a single set of brain structures involved in all emotional responses.

LeDoux summarizes in more detail here the results of research on fear conditioning in rats (see above), and notes that studies of the effects of damage to the amygdala in humans, as well as fMRI studies, show that the amygdala is the key to the fear-conditioning system in humans, as well. However, the association of fear not with the original stimulus but with the environmental context in which the stimulus was encountered appears to depend on the hippocampus.

The persistence of learned fear responses is obviously valuable for survival. However, the inability to inhibit unwarranted fear responses can have devastating consequences, as in phobias and post-traumatic stress disorder. Thus, research on the probable role of neocortical areas in extinction of fear responses may be of great value in treating these disorders.

Less is known about other basic emotion such as anger or joy; it remains to be seen whether the amygdala is involved in these as well. Far less is known about “higher-order” emotions such as jealousy. And, as mentioned above, an account of emotional feelings awaits an adequate account of consciousness in general. However, LeDoux notes that working memory receives a greater number and variety of inputs in the presence of an emotional stimulus than otherwise, due to the variety of neural pathways involved; he speculates that this excess stimulation is what adds the affective charge to representations in working memory that we associate with felt emotions.

Email link | Printer-friendly | Feedback | Contributed by: CTNS/Vatican Observatory

Topic Sets Available

AAAS Report on Stem-Cells

AstroTheology: Religious Reflections on Extraterrestrial Life Forms

Agency: Human, Robotic and Divine
Becoming Human: Brain, Mind, Emergence
Big Bang Cosmology and Theology (GHC)
Cosmic Questions CD-ROM Preview...
Cosmic Questions Interviews

Cosmos and Creator
Creativity, Spirituality and Computing Technologies
CTNS Content Home
Darwin: A Friend to Religion?
Demystifying Information Technology
Divine Action (GHC)
Dreams and Dreaming: Neuroscientific and Religious Visions'
E. Coli at the No Free Lunchroom
Engaging Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence: An Adventure in Astro-Ethics
Evangelical Atheism: a response to Richard Dawkins
Ecology and Christian Theology
Evolution: What Should We Teach Our Children in Our Schools?
Evolution and Providence
Evolution and Creation Survey
Evolution and Theology (GHC)
Evolution, Creation, and Semiotics

The Expelled Controversy
Faith and Reason: An Introduction
Faith in the Future: Religion, Aging, and Healthcare in the 21st Century

Francisco Ayala on Evolution

From Christian Passions to Scientific Emotions
Genetic Engineering and Food

Genetics and Ethics
Genetic Technologies - the Radical Revision of Human Existence and the Natural World

Genomics, Nanotechnology and Robotics
Getting Mind out of Meat
God and Creation: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Perspectives on Big Bang Cosmology
God, Humanity and the Cosmos: A Textbook in Science and Religion
God the Spirit - and Natural Science
Historical Examples of the Science and Religion Debate (GHC)
History of Creationism
Intelligent Design Coming Clean

Issues for the Millennium: Cloning and Genetic Technologies
Jean Vanier of L'Arche
Nano-Technology and Nano-ethics
Natural Science and Christian Theology - A Select Bibliography
Neuroscience and the Soul
Outlines of the Science and Religion Debate (GHC)

Perspectives on Evolution

Physics and Theology
Quantum Mechanics and Theology (GHC)
Questions that Shape Our Future
Reductionism (GHC)
Reintroducing Teleology Into Science
Science and Suffering

Scientific Perspectives on Divine Action (CTNS/Vatican Series)

Space Exploration and Positive Stewardship

Stem-Cell Debate: Ethical Questions
Stem-Cell Ethics: A Theological Brief

Stem-Cell Questions
Theistic Evolution: A Christian Alternative to Atheism, Creationism, and Intelligent Design...
Theology and Science: Current Issues and Future Directions
Unscientific America: How science illiteracy threatens our future
Will ET End Religion?

Current Stats: topics: >2600, links: >300,000, video: 200 hours.