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Medical Neural Correlates of Emotions

  1. May 8, 2017 #1
    What are the neural correlates of emotions?

    Is the neural correlate of emotion the same as the qualia of emotions?

    What is the latest research about this in the medical and neuroscience field?
  2. jcsd
  3. May 8, 2017 #2


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    There's a lot of different parts of the brain that contribute to different emotions - everything's not neatly divided. It's probably better to take it one at a time. Which emotion are you most interested in? Have you tried searching pubmed or google scholar for neural correlates of a specific emotion?

    And no, neural correlates are not subjective experiences - they are the neural activity that is (usually) associated with subjective experience.
  4. May 8, 2017 #3

    jim mcnamara

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    Please ask specific questions. Nobody here can answer what you ask.

    These are just plain definitions. Did you try to look up something about them?

    We like helping people here. But we need your participation to be able to help. So the ball is in your court.....
  5. May 8, 2017 #4
    Specific question. What are the latest on neural networks simulations about how such implementation of basic emotions can occur and what is really emotion in network language.. is it about feedback loops or stuff like that?
  6. May 8, 2017 #5

    jim mcnamara

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    Thank you, @oquen . @Pythagorean knows a lot about this area and probably can help. He may ask you some additional quick questions.
  7. May 8, 2017 #6
    The first problem here is in the term "neural correlate." To think that some experiential property has a "neural correlate" is really missing the point. I mean, effectively, we can say that every emotion, cognition, and perception is associated with some sort of neural correlate. However, using this as a condition to understanding the problem amounts basically to a category error.

    What do I mean? Well, I mean that so-called emergent phenomenon of brain function such as emotion, cognition, and even perception aren't best described at a discrete "neural correlate" level, but are rather better described at a population dynamics level.

    These are sticky political issues in contemporary neuroscience, though. Which level of hierarchical architecture to focus on. Our lab likes to focus on mesoscopic neurodynamics at the population level rather than looking at the individual neuron and what it contributes to the "correlate" of a conscious or emotional experience.

    This "neural correlate of consciousness" nonsense, I believe, largely arose out of Koch and Crick's 1994 book, The astonishing hypothesis. The only thing astonishing about this piece of garbage was the hubristic title. Like trying to put lipstick on a pig. But Christof Koch rode that association with Francis Crick all the way to the bank in Seattle at the Paul Allen institute. So, good for him. But, in my opinion the focus on these neural correlate things are focusing on the wrong level of analysis and are draining important resources, e.g., Allen institute and Blue brain project, etc.

    I'm giving a talk at the International Joint Conference on Neural Networks (IJCNN) in Anchorage next week, and the promoter of the conference, who is a friend of mine, said that Koch wanted to ditch his plenary speech on Wednesday and instead submit a video! Can you believe that crap? This is what a prima donna this guy is.


    So what did we have to do? In order to maintain faith in the program that the plenary speakers that are scheduled to speak WILL ACTUALLY SHOW UP, we had to fly this guy out for one day and have a limo pick him up from the airport. If you don't believe me, do your own research.

    The point is that a lot of science is political, so don't buy the neural correlate of whatever stuff. You're not going to get off that easy. It's not like if sector A and sector F are excited you're going to have the experience of LOVE. And if sector D1 and sector H6 are active you're going to have the emotion of jealousy. It doesn't work like that.
  8. May 8, 2017 #7
    I have read his book as well as that of Gerald Edelman's.. is your model closer to Edelman where emotions occur akin to his descriptions:

    "—the third tenet of Edelman's thesis is the concept of reentrant signalling between neuronal groups. He defines reentry as the ongoing recursive dynamic interchange of signals that occurs in parallel between brain maps, and which continuously interrelates these maps to each other in time and space (film clip: Edelman demonstrates spontaneous group formation among neurons with re-entrant connections[23]). Reentry depends for its operations on the intricate networks of massively parallel reciprocal connections within and between neuronal groups, which arise through the processes of developmental and experiential selection outlined above. Edelman describes reentry as "a form of ongoing higher-order selection ... that appears to be unique to animal brains" and that "there is no other object in the known universe so completely distinguished by reentrant circuitry as the human brain."

    I have read both his books and Koch.. you mean they are opposing models? I haven't thought of it before.
  9. May 8, 2017 #8
    Wow, I am very impressed oquen, you have done your homework. As far as Edelman, although I never met him my lab director was good friends with him and visited him several times at the "neurosciences institute" in San Diego, which recently was dissolved. Edelman gained fame for his research in immunology for which he received the Nobel prize. Again, though, he tried to ride that accolade and extrapolate that theme to the nervous system, which didn't work. That said, I do believe Edelman had some useful concepts that I have actually incorporated into some of my models. One, specifically, is the concept of primary and secondary repertoires in his "Neural Darwinism" model. Primary repertoires are basically associated with the ontogenetic formation of neural connectivity and secondary repertoires are associated with time-dependent synaptic plasticity. OK, that works. But the neural darwinism model is an animal of the 80's, we've moved on sine then.

    Case in point, "re-entrant circuitry" basically just describes non-linear feedback processes that occur ubiquitously throughout the neocortex. We have analyses of these processes that are much more sophisticated than Edelman's "re-entrant" formulation these days. That said, his characterization of the main theme was guiding and inspiring, but nowadays cliche.
  10. May 9, 2017 #9
    I have read all of Edelman's books. In fact.. I over have 30 books on neuroscience... and it was 5 years ago.. last I remembered it or my last impression was.. no matter how complicated the brain circuits and networking can be.. it might just be unconscious process. I want to be convinced that our brain circuits is sufficient to give us subjective experience.. any new books about this (the last 3 years)?

    After reading the neuroscience books 5 years ago.. I began to read all books about physics because of the possibility our qualia or subjective experience and awareness of being aware may need new physics. How do you refute this? Is there a latest argument that can refute this? That's why I need to read some new books about neuroscience now to be convinced our physical brain is enough to make us think or feel the way we do. Thanks.
  11. May 9, 2017 #10
    You don't need any new books to convince you of that, unless you want relegate yourself to being a dualist, which I don't think you want to do. Give me a more specific question and I'll try to answer it.
  12. May 9, 2017 #11
    Can you please share the papers you have written or articles or even lectures brief. I want to be refreshed first with it all so I'd ask senseful questions.. and so I don't have to ask a thousand questions.. lol...
  13. May 9, 2017 #12
    No, I'm not going to do that because there is a population of contributors here that feel comfortable contributing honestly because they have anonymity and then there are others that don't mind identifying themselves. I fall in former category and that is why I feel comfortable discussing the science-social politics as in the IJCNN discussion above.

    So I won't direct you to my personal publications per se, but I will direct you to equally relevant publications. You don't need these anyway to ask a senseful question. Just ask away.
  14. May 9, 2017 #13
    What can you say about the Dendritic network microprocessing. They say our emotions are related to it. Traditionally.. the axon gets their fire or not fire from the dendritic network which gets their state from other axons.. but according to some models.. the dentritic networks have other inputs and can process it with its own complexities.. which give rise to emotions in the emotionally active parts of the brain...
  15. May 9, 2017 #14
    If I could double-like this post, I would. As a layperson I have read a fair number of popular depictions of neuroscience, including some of the books already mentioned in this thread; a few too many poorly done fMRI studies for my liking; also journal articles and edited collections about vision networks, color perception, etc. I have also read quite deeply in journals & edited collections on "third wave" operant behavioral research into language & cognition, obviously with non-neural models (e.g. relational frame theory). I remain skeptical of simplistic neural/behavioral interpretations, tempting as they seem to be the public & to some science journalists.
  16. May 9, 2017 #15
    I mentioned in my previous comment that I'm a layperson. As such, my problem with this sort of question is, how can we hope to adequately map the complexities of behavior that we broadly speak of as "emotion" to the brain alone? Even motor behavior, which we might think relatively simple, neurologically speaking, is apparently involved with cognition and therefore almost certainly involved with emotion; yet in ways that are still to be sorted out. Obviously any comprehensive discussion of emotion must involve non-neurological approaches, preferably, those deemed scientific.

    As a layperson I would be much more interested in where all this research fits in vis-a-vis non-neurological models. What potentially might be gained w/ such models that can't be achieved otherwise? I think we ought to try & understand the larger purpose of the field first.

    Another way to put this: you are asking questions about posited structures or processes; there are apparently many such proposed or competing models for various behaviors and functions. , e.g. "holonomic brain theory," which has to do with memory & which I found by Googling; I will cheerfully tell you I know nothing about it and only cite it because it seems clear from the description (assuming Wikipedia is not hopelessly off here) that it is indeed a structural model; "function" is depicted only in an extremely narrow sense. To try to extrapolate from discussions of this sort about brain plumbing to larger questions of how emotions operate in a whole human being, why humans/mammals/animals have them, what they "mean", etc. etc., seems to me to be confusing categories. It comes close to saying that emotion can only be truly understood as a function of the brain, which to me is overly reductionistic (see Wikipedia article on reductionism).

    Please note that I'm not a scientist nor am I actively reading any of the research in this area at present, so I could be off base here. But I would still think cautions of this sort would be in order. You're obviously very interested in your questions here; can you think for a moment as to why you are so interested? What would you say your assumptions are that lie behind the questions?
    Last edited: May 9, 2017
  17. May 9, 2017 #16


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    This thread is doing fine, but just a reminder to stick to science and not stray into philosophy, this is not directed at anyone that has posted in the thread so far, just that these threads tend to attract people that wish to discuss the more purely philosophical side of the "meaning of emotions" and stray from the science.

    Thank you.
    Last edited: May 9, 2017
  18. May 10, 2017 #17
    You mean Koch "neutral correlates" stuff falls under functional/structural department? While Edelman and DiracPool falls under Global workspace or neural networks? What is the correct terms to understand the difference or distinguish them? I have complete collection of all major neuroscientist books including Antonio Damasio.. what do you think of Damasio stuff.. is it functional or neural network? But in neural networks.. don't the brain modules have specific function too.. like the Amydala.. remove it and the person become fearless.. what does neutral network say about this? DiracPool?
  19. May 11, 2017 #18
    I'm not really sure what you are talking about here. What other inputs to the dendritic networks are you talking about, and with what complexities do they come with, etc.? That said, I do think you have a legitimate question about the nature of emotions. It's difficult to see how the patterned firing of dull, discrete neurons could give rise to the qualitative experience of emotion, or sentience, or color. I understand that. But you're not going to find the answer in "Dendritic network microprocessing." There's a huge literature on this bridge between qualitative experience and so-called neural correlates of them. They span the gamut between pure philosophy to cognitive science and even biophysics. Given that you claim to be well-read in the subject, I'm sure you're well aware of the history. Unfortunately, I don't think you're going t find any deeper answers here on how the qualitative experience of emotions relate to neural impulses, other than some brain regions are more associated with the experience of certain emotions than others.
  20. May 11, 2017 #19
    For this particular discussion, I don't think that worrying about labels such as structural, functional or global workspace are going to help us much. I think perhaps the best direction is to strip it down to bare bones without all the jargon, what is it that you really are concerned about. Just state it in lay-man's terms. Are you wanting to know how the spiking network behavior of neurons produces your emotions? It's not a simple answer as if you removed the amygdala, then you lose your emotion of fear. That is what is known as a "localizationalist" view of brain organization. Again, the analysis is not that simple or clearcut. As far as Damasio, I think he's good, I've read all his books, what were they, Descartes error, The feeling of what happens, Looking for Spinoza, etc. I skimmed "Self comes to mind" at Barnes and Noble, because by the time that book came out, I was already well-versed in his general theme and actually lost interest since it didn't seem to develop past "The feeling of what happens," which I feel was his most important work, and which I've referenced in several of my articles. And that may be a good point for this thread, if you own those books, I think you're going to get as good a characterization from Damasio's views as to how neural activity relates to emotions as anywhere. So you're on the right track. Looking for Spinoza is a pretty good book, too, but is mostly derivative of his 1999 "The feeling of what happens" book, IMHO.
  21. May 11, 2017 #20

    Ok. I'll describe why i'm interested in all this as per the request of DiracPool and UsableThought and will now take the risk of getting this thread lock by revealing what I'm trying to understand.

    I'm presently attending a 4 day international convention (see picture above) where the over 1000 participants have previously underwent years of brain rewiring/plasticity synasthesia training.. but instead of hearing colors or seeing sounds.. we are trained to "see" emotions.. and many spent full time on this. For example the lecturer can superimpose on her vision the emotions of the entire audience and can see the flow of them as well as individual people and how they interact. In our daily work. We remove the area in a person body where there are emotional blockages and clear them. We can track the flow with our vision or non contact touch.

    I'm trying to understand the phenomenon in terms of neuroscience and physics. Are we mapping the Pribram holonomic (or holographic) frequencies in our vision? Are these bohmian phenomenon or some sort of dark matter where our biological organism have integrated after millions of years of evolution and via sythasthesia can integrate in our vision. Yes, we can see stuff with our eyes closed... some I know has tried driving a car blindfolded.

    Neuroscientists and Physicists have totally ignored us. It's like there is a barrier between us and them where we have two worlds. They won't even try to hear or attend any of it. And since the group has no neuroscientists and physicists. Then I have to learn brain and physics to be able to understand what's going on. This got me into years reading neuroscience books and physics books but still can't quite sure of the exact mechanism of interaction. I'm zeroing on the mechanism of interactions.

    Have you encounter anything like it? It's easy to dismiss this as all crackpottery.. that is automatically the mindset of neuroscientists and physicists. And also the people in this forum. But at least I was able to reveal what I intend to understand and before this message is erased or the thread locked. Can you please tell me or do you know of neuroscientists who may be willing to mingle and observe and investigate our world? Or point to at least what is the latest in the field so I can study them (website, papers, etc.?). The reward may be new mind or physics models (that is, empower one to discover the language of the brain, even able to distinguish what is the correct quantum interpretations.. and show the road to the unifications in physics). If no one willing to do that and I have to do it alone.. should I take a Ph.D. in neuroscience or physics to derive at the right theories mathematically and conceptually? Are you also a physicist? I'm nearly 50 years old and not young anymore. But if no one willing to study us and our world, then I have to do it alone (because no choice and no others who would do it)...
  22. May 24, 2017 #21


    I will heed Evo advice to stick to science. And for a week. I'm thinking of all sorts of ways to write this so this would be replied and not locked. And remember what DiracPool wrote above "I think perhaps the best direction is to strip it down to bare bones without all the jargon, what is it that you really are concerned about. Just state it in lay-man's terms".

    In my previous message. I was trying to make it scientific and include some jargon which may even turn off people (like Synesthesia). So now let's me write in bare bones without the jargon and what is it i'm concerned about in layman's terms. But first let me state I'm not biased. In fact, if all of us in the convention are all hallucinating, i'd be happy as well. I'm just concerned of the truth. I'm not a cultist or fanatic so will be swayed only by science. It's important distinction because when you are dealing with a fanatic. It's hopeless from the start. And I'm not one.

    That said. I attended the 4 day convention. It's really a psychic convention.. many are clairvoyants (those I described as using synesthesia to see emotions.. it's just to make it scientific.. the participants may not even know the meaning of it.. only me using it to make you scientific fellows relate). Our major discussions in the convention was how emotions are contagious and how to make it positive. The clairvoyant lecturers and many in the audience can see emotional energy transferrable from one person to another so in situation like the initial riot in Syria, it became contagious and resulted in civil war that claimed the lives of 500,000 civilians. So by initially handling the emotions and making it positive.. our convention is about techniques to making emotions positive and avoiding the contagiousness to spread like wildfire.

    I know the word "psychic" are banned in PF. So let me not go into details.. but state what I want to learn. Ok. I want to learn so much about neural networks in the brain and how it alone is sufficient to create emotions. By convincing myself this. I'd like to convince myself that all of the people in the convention are hallucinating and this is science as well.. the science of hallucinations.

    Diracpool has finished attending his neural network conference as well. Can we the public at least get access to any summary of each speakers in the convention? Is it available to the public. DiracPool.. any new findings about the neural networks and self awareness or further attempt at computer simulation? If all our thoughts and emotions are simply neural networks, then we can build a self aware machine. And here I wanna to convince myself humans are merely neurons and electrical impulses and nothing more to it.. this can also justify 500,000 civilians dead because they are just flesh and blood.. just biological machines and dispensable. This is my initial positions and I want to dismiss all evidence to the contrary so I'm ready to dismiss all this "psychic" thing because if it's true.. it shows we are more than our brain. Whatever. I'm a science guy and agree sticking to science and learning the details is the goal.

    Sorry for my awkward English. I'm a native of Asia. I'd like to attend Neural Network conventions too if it's nearby.. is this available to the public. Any books on the latest of neural networks and cutting edge knowledge you can share Diracpool so I can begin the process of being updated to the latest.. thanks.
  23. May 25, 2017 #22


    Staff: Mentor

    These are my experiences with psychic conventions in upstate NY years ago. A group was formed of local people interested in psychic phenomena with the idea of using science to prove or disprove it. Why? because scientists weren't looking at it and these people wanted to know if ESP is real, same as today.

    The problem was that no one present was a scientist and thus no one understood how to construct good experiments instead they would take field trips to psychic places looking for ghosts or invite speakers in who were clairvoyant, dowsers or past life hypnotists or they were proponents of alternative religions like Eckankar...

    In the end nothing got proved but it was pretty entertaining to listen to members connecting to an imaginative alternate universe.

    The best option for you is to attend a Mind & Life conference hosted by the Dalai Lama which invites scientists to come and investigate Tibetan Buddhist practices like tumo (spontaneous heat generation), distance running (meditation) and other stuff closer to ESP.


    With respect to neural nets, you could research machine learning and cognitive models of the brain online so you can see where the science is currently working.

    With the summary complete , we close this thread.
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