Psychology of Wellness | Psychology Definitions | Affective Neuroscience
BY: T. Franklin Murphy | October 31, 2021 (updated 9-21-2022)
Definition of and resources for Affective Neuroscience
Science continues to expand our understanding of emotion. Quaint judgements of good and bad have slipped into the past (for many) and we have adopted a the more complex understandings of the neuro underpinnings of felt experience and behavior.
Affective neuroscience is the study of the neurological basis for emotions. Jaak Panksepp and Joseph LeDoux are notable early pioneers in the field of affective neuroscience, beginning their research and published findings in the 1990's.
Joseph LeDoux wrote that "the mind has been viewed as a trilogy, consisting of cognition, affect (emotion), and conation (motivation)" (2003, Kindle location 502).
Affective neuroscience is the science of how the affective aspects of the mind interacts with cognition and conation aspects of the mind.
Neuro-Correlates to Behavior
Pankseep suggests that a causal chain of internal feelings control the actions of both humans and nonhuman, largely crafted from non-conscious processes. Our neuro network reacts to internal and external stimuli with positive and negative affect (or valence). Affect is also experienced in varying degree of arousal. The valence and arousal lead to subjective interpretations often referred to as feelings. The feelings then motivate behavior (also see appraisal theory).
A major premises of affective neuroscience is that feelings sustain some unconditioned behavioral tendencies normally not apparent to conscious cognitive processes.
Affective neuroscience focusses on neural correlates, however, science still considers cognitive functions for directing attention to internal and external experience. The attention impacts brain connection, which in turn, affects behavioral tendencies.
Books on Affective Neuroscience
A Few Words from Flourishing Life Society
Hamlet said to Horatio, "there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of." We may never know the full extent of biological fate. Freedom of choice appears to exist in the realms of cognitive functions. We find strength, hope, and even a spark of divinity in our ability to direct and improve our lives. Yet, freedom of choice is constrained by biological givens.
Neuroscience provides helpful information for treatment and certainly great cause to give empathy to those suffering from emotional diseases not of their choosing. We must progress beyond our simple calculations of emotional wellness, suggesting those suffering to be weak or "bad."
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LeDoux, Joseph (2003) Synaptic Self: How Our Brains Become Who We Are. Penguin Books.