The Archaeology of Mind: Book Notes

Neuroevolutionary Origins of Human Emotions

Authors: Jaak Panksepp and Lucy Biven

The 7 basic affective systems within the subcortical regions of the mammalian brain:

1. Seeking (expectancy)

2. Fear (anxiety)

3. Rage (anger)

4. Lust (sexual excitement)

5. Care (nurturance)

6. Panic/grief (sadness)

7. Play (social joy)

· Cortisol

1. Long-term high cortisol levels weaken the immune system

2. Long-term high cortisol levels also contribute to depression

About the neocortex:

· The neocortex (top layer of the brain) is a central part of the limbic system — very well developed in mammals

· The neocortex is the most recent evolutionary development

· It contributes to our higher thinking functions: sensory perception, motor awareness, special reasoning, conscious thought and language

· “Primal emotional systems are made up of neuroanatomies and neurochemistries that are remarkably similar across all mammalian species. This suggests that these systems evolved a very long time ago and that at a basic emotional and motivational level, all mammals are more similar than they are different” (p. 4).

· “Our unique minds, in this world and the cosmos, arise from the cognitive riches of our higher neocortical expansions. But all the while, our higher minds remain rooted in our ancestral past” (p. 5).

· Evolution provides us with a strong foundation allow higher brain functions to grow

· Emotions are evolutionary, therefore they are ancestral “mememories” and an essential component to survival — emotions are ingrained in our subcortical networks

· “Humans and other animals approach things that evoke pleasant affects, and they stay away from things that make them feel bad. Hence affective changes can reinforce new behavior patterns…” (p. 23)

· Dopamine and the reward system are interlinked — dopamine contributes to seeking behaviors allowing us to become more curious, inquisitive and eager — dopamine is essential to learning for this reason

· We are programmed to seek (the medial prefrontal cortex is largely responsible for this) — this is why anticipation is sometimes more exciting than the reward

· Endogenous opioids: chemicals similar to opiates that are produced in the brain

· Oxytocin makes us friendly, tolerant and social

· Abnormal oxytocin contributes to post-partum depression

Play and survival

· Play is essential to survival — the brain’s play networks developed to help us build social connections as well as making decisions about the future (as we play, we act out scenarios that are applicable to life) — this also applies to dreaming, a form of play

· Rough and tumble play involves the following brain regions: the cerebellum, basal ganglia, and vestibular systems

· Basic Pavlovian Needs (food, shelter, warmth, support, etc) must be met before the desire to play can arise

· “Thus, we can conclude that the urge to play is not learned. It is innate. The evidence indicates the PLAY is one of the primary process, genetically determined social urges” (p. 356).

· Accessive amounts of dopamine diminish the urge to play

· ADHD (stimulant) medication can also diminish the urge to play

· “Living brains, along with their minds — the invisible manifestation of their neural network-level neurobiological functions — reflect a delicate balance, as yet poorly understood, among vastly interacting neural circuits that work in and for living bodies that respond to the challenges of the world by creating desired circumstances and avoiding those that are harmful. Emotional feelings are the experienced affective manifestations of such interactions; they are subjective qualities of mind, aspects of which can finally be studied systematically, in detail in other creatures. Thereby, we can begin to neuroscientifically understand our own minds” (p. 500).

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