The Nature of Consciousness

Piero Scaruffi

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These are excerpts and elaborations from my book "The Nature of Consciousness"

Emotions as Survival Instinct

The answers can be summarized, once again, as: emotions are a product of evolution, they exist because they favor our species in natural selection. What emotions seem to do is help us make fast decisions in crucial situations. Emotions are inferential short-cuts. If I am afraid of a situation, it means that it is dangerous: the emotion of fear has already helped me make up my mind about how to approach that situation. If I were not capable of fear, my brain would have to analyze the situation, infer logically what is good and what is bad about it for me, and finally draw a conclusion. By that time, it may be too late. Fear helps us to act faster than if we used our logical faculties.

This is reflected in the way emotions are generated. The central processor for emotions is the brain structure called "amygdala" The thalamus normally connects senses to the cortex and the cortex to the muscles. But the amygdala provides a much faster shortcut for decision making: the route from senses to amygdala to thalamus to muscles is much faster than going through the cortex.

However, there is still little evidence for how emotions are implemented in the brain. The Estonian-born psychologist Jaak Panksepp identified seven regions of the mammalian brain corresponding to seven fundamental emotions: seeking, fear, panic, rage, play, care and lust. This model has been widely used, but its correspondence to reality is debatable.

 


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