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I had been struggling with the how many and what framework to use for defining the basic emotions and especially as I was sure that there would be eight basic emotions/emotion systems that would lie on a eight fold evolutionary path/model.

Basic emotions research is fraught with many researchers claiming different types of basic emotions and thus there is a lot of disagreement and little consensus. I’ve looked ate Ekmans models , Plutchik’s wheel and others but found all lacking. Recently I came across the basic emotion systems as neural circuits as proposed by Jaak Panksepp and could immediately see a parallel and gleam of truth there.

First a little introduction to Panksepp’s approach. He works at the primary-process level, which is to say the sub-cortical affective brain level rather than secondary process memory or emotional learning stage or tertiary level cortical brain areas where one has thoughts about feelings as the objects of study.

He has stimulated the sub-cortical as well as cortical brain areas and found that stimulating specific sub-cortical brain areas produces specific emotionl action tendencies and behavior in animals and humans and has thus identified seven brain affective systems and a separate SELF system that subsumes them all and is the basis for affective consciousness.

Without further ado, I’ll list the eight emotionless systems as I see , ranked as per my eight fold order. Its important to note that Panksepp also arrives at these circuits keeping in mind evolution as a guiding force.
1. FEAR is characterized by bodily tenseness and a shivery negatively valenced immobility, which can burst forth into a dynamic flight pattern with chaotic-projectile movements to get out of harm’s way (which may reflect recruitment of dopamine energized SEEKING urges); this system has to do with the problem of avoiding predators.
2. SEEKING is characterized by a persistent positively-valenced exploratory inquisitiveness, with energetic for-ward locomotion — approach and engagement with the world—consisting of probing into the nooks and crannies of interesting objects and events (this system is critical also for most other basic emotional responses, such as the seeking of safety when threatened); This is related to searching for food/exploring.
3. RAGE is characterized by a vigorous casting of the body at offending objects with biting and pounding of the extremities; it is a mixture of positive and negative valence; it is related to dominance hierarchies and submission and relationship with consepcifics esp with regards to territorial behavior.
4. PANIC (separation distress) is characterized by aversive crying actions, with urgent attempts at reunion, followed by weakness and a despairing body carriage as grief sets in if reunion fails; this is related to the affiliation systems especially the mother-child bonding problem.
5. LUST is characterized by an urgent and rhythmic thrusting of the body toward receptive others, and in their absence, a craving tension with both positive and negative affective features;this is related to sexuality, adolescence and shame/dis-inhibition.
6. CARE is characterized by a gentle,caressing, enveloping body dynamic accompanied by relaxed positively valenced states of the body; this is related to the intimacy needs and the need for having an intimate relationship with another.
7.PLAY is expressed in a bounding lightness of movement that has an affectively engaging dynamic poking and rhythmic quality, at times bordering on aggression. this is related to communication needs, activity and playfulness and vibrancy dimensions.
8. SELF- the systems that lies at intersection of all emotional systems and cognition and leads to affective consciousness. In my model this would be the need for integrity and might also be related to physical/social disgust.

Here is a table summarizing the neural systems, the emotions and psychopathology associated with each. the only issues I have is placement of Shame, which I think should go with lust. Similarly Hatred/contempt may go with the eight stage that of SELF.

So what do you think of Panskepp’s neurally grounded model. Do the basic emotions that he has discovered in species as low as the rat , appeal to you? On a tangential note, I had a private conversation with Bjorn Brembs on friendfeed as per which flies though may not have ’emotion proper’ related to the above emotion circuits but definitely have traits resembling these circuits and have personalities, to speak of. thus, I believe these circuits and the problems they pose are evolutionary conserved and Panksepp is on the right track.

Panksepp, J. (2000). The neuro-evolutionary cusp between emotions and cognitions: Implications for understanding consciousness and the emergence of a unified mind science Consciousness & Emotion, 1 (1), 15-54 DOI: 10.1075/ce.1.1.04pan

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