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The brain decade in debate: III. Neurobiology of emotion

  • Author(s): Blanchard, C.
  • Blanchard, R.
  • Fellous, J.-M.
  • Guimarães, F.S.
  • Irwin, W.
  • LeDoux, J.E.
  • McGaugh, J.L.
  • Rosen, J.B.
  • Schenberg, L.C.
  • Volchan, E.
  • Da Cunha, C.
  • et al.

This article is a transcription of an electronic symposium in which active researchers were invited by the Brazilian Society of Neuroscience and Behavior (SBNeC) to discuss the advances of the last decade in the neurobiology of emotion. Four basic questions were debated: 1) What are the most critical issues/questions in the neurobiology of emotion? 2) What do we know for certain about brain processes involved in emotion and what is controversial? 3) What kinds of research are needed to resolve these controversial issues? 4) What is the relationship between learning, memory and emotion? The focus was on the existence of different neural systems for different emotions and the nature of the neural coding for the emotional states. Is emotion the result of the interaction of different brain regions such as the amygdala, the nucleus accumbens, or the periaqueductal gray matter or is it an emergent property of the whole brain neural network? The relationship between unlearned and learned emotions was also discussed. Are the circuits of the former the underpinnings of the latter? It was pointed out that much of what we know about emotions refers to aversively motivated behaviors, Like fear and anxiety. Appetitive emotions should attract much interest in the future. The learning and memory relationship with emotions was also discussed in terms of conditioned and unconditioned stimuli, innate and learned fear, contextual cues inducing emotional states, implicit memory and the property of using this term for animal memories. In a general way it could be said that learning modifies the neural circuits through which emotional responses are expressed.

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