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Unread May 16th, 2006, 10:05 AM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 483
Default Re: Damasios: Professors of Creativity

[MM to JimB:] Then you say that the limbic system is not the elevator's ground floor. For someone so free with the metaphors you seem curiously unwilling to flesh out their meaning and eliminate the ambiguity they bring to the discussion.

Are you saying that emotions are not the data type that the limbic system was designed by evolution to process? Are you implying that cognition or something else is on the elevator's ground floor?
JimB’s ground floor seems to be the brainstem.

Although, Margaret, you rarely seem to be appreciative whenever I’ve gone out of my way to provide you with useful info in your quest, here again, caring guy that I am, is more of what you’re asking about from an exchange in early 2003 where JimB briefly discusses this area in response to a “Glenn,” and I also comment (And wouldn’t you agree that I’ve provided you with far more meaningful info than say TomJ ever has, except that I don’t sugarcoat my evaluations of your various “hypotheses ?”)—

To Pithycus: About the Brainstem and TonyD James Brody · 01/17/03 at 9:18 ET

Glenn! Nice to see your name on the board! I hope that you and your family are well. Damascio...I think a short guy with very tall hair...has defined a niche for himself. He commits, however, the error made by cortical lovers, that of neglecting the brainstem.

The brainstem is laid out in segments like the thorax and belly of a fly and may, someday, be understood in terms of our non-cerebral anatomy. Hox genes and our anatomy have parallel, linear arrangements, that organization may be applied to our brainstem and cranial nerves.

The limbic system and cortex may be emergent gifts from the same architects that organize our mouths (labia) and foreheads...extra genes that paired with the anterior members (spiracle and antennadae?) of the Hox sequence to give us a more elaborate brain.

Yes, Tony is correct, there WILL be self-magnifying organizations within the limbic labyrinth but they are fed from below and from above. They may have semi-autonomy from cortex and brainstem but they are neither unfettered nor in charge of the neural triad.

Re:EMOTIONS Fred H. · 01/17/03 at 7:44 PM ET

Glenn: “Damasio is saying, in effect, that innate feelings motivate behavior.”

Hi Glenn: I’m a Damasio fan myself (in spite of his tall hair, and I think JimB has it wrong about Damasio being a cortical lover...Damasio struck me more a brain stem lover!)--I thought his ideas and explanation on what consciousness is and how it’s generated, and his explanations of the mechanics and neurochemistry of emotion, and especially the necessity of emotion in creating sense of “self,” were fabulous. However, I’m an even bigger fan of LeDoux (LeDoux’s “Synaptic Self,” 2002, is fantastic).

Any way, I don’t think Damasio ever says, or implies, that “feelings motivate behavior.” My simplified POV on all this is as follows: Stimuli trigger the primitive subcortical emotional neural circuitry which then activates the subcortical motivational circuitry which results in behavior, without and/or before conscious awareness of the stimuli. As you mentioned, maybe ½ second later, our higher cognitive consciousness then becomes aware of what’s going on and “feels” the and experiences the emotion and the behavior (believing it has been the author of the whole process). After becoming consciously/cognitively aware of what’s going on, we may then attempt to consciously (downwardly) manage our emotion/behavior; but of course at the same time we are consciously “feeling” the emotion(s) which then tremendously influence our cognitive perceptions and thinking. I’m convinced that, for the most part, emotion trumps “reason,” plus, “reason” (and consciousness) doesn’t seem possible without adequate emotional input.

LeDoux writes: “motivation can be thought of in terms of incentives without assuming that feelings are necessary to translate incentives into actions....In the presence of conditioned (learned) or unconditioned (innate) incentives [or stimuli], emotion systems are activated, placing the brain in a state where an instrumental response [where a behavior is instrumental in achieving/avoiding something] becomes a highly probable outcome...[and we thereby avoid] hypothetical concepts like drives or subjective states to explain motivated action. All we need to talk about is real brain systems and their functions.” He also notes that, “The brain can be thought of as having a variety of systems that it uses to interact with the environment and keep itself alive.” What’s important is the particular function these systems perform, whether they are labeled emotion systems or something else. “Included are systems that detect and respond to predators and other dangers, to sexual partners, to suitable food and drink, to safe shelter, and so on.” (Pg. 240 of LeDoux, Synaptic Self, 2002)

The bottom line as I see it: motivation is merely, primarily, behavior ordained by primitive neural structures performing their functions, with emotional feeling as a byproduct directing our higher cognitive resources to incentives/stimuli selected by the primitive functions. Let me know your thoughts….
You're welcome Margaret.
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