Scientific Understanding of Consciousness
Consciousness as an Emergent Property of Thalamocortical Activity

Emotions  (Damasio)


Six primary emotions; happiness, sadness, fear, anger, surprise, disgust. (Damasio; Feeling of What Happens, 50)

Secondary or social emotions; such as embarrassment, jealousy, guilt, pride. (Damasio; Feeling of What Happens, 51)

Background emotions; well-being or malaise, calm or tension. (Damasio; Feeling of What Happens, 51)

Emotions are complicated collections of chemical and neural responses. (Damasio; Feeling of What Happens, 51)

Biological function of emotions is twofold: (1) specific reaction to the inducing situation, fight or flight, (2) regulation of the internal state of the organism, preparing it for a specific reaction. (Damasio; Feeling of What Happens, 53)

Emotions are part of the machinery with which organisms regulate survival. (Damasio; Feeling of What Happens, 54)

Emotions are sandwiched between the basic survival kit (regulation of metabolism; simple reflexes; motivations; biology of pain and pleasure) and the devices of high reason, but are still very much a part of the hierarchy of life regulation devices. (Damasio; Feeling of What Happens, 54)

Human emotions involved in life regulation include joy and sorrow and fear, as well as pride and shame and sympathy. (Damasio; Looking for Spinoza, 34)

For absent-minded humans, emotions produce quite reasonable behaviors from the point of view of survival. (Damasio; Feeling of What Happens, 54)

At their most basic, emotions are part of homeostatic regulation and poised to avoid the loss of integrity that is a harbinger of death as well as to endorse a source of energy, shelter, or sex. (Damasio; Feeling of What Happens, 54)


Primary Emotions

Fear, anger, sadness, disgust, surprise, and happiness have been found to be universal emotions in terms of a facial expression and recognizability. (Damasio; Feeling of What Happens, 285)

Biological machinery underlying emotion is not dependent on consciousness. (Damasio; Feeling of What Happens, 43)

Spontaneous smile that comes from genuine delight or the spontaneous sobbing that is caused by grief are executed by brain structures located deep in the brain stem under the control of the cingulate region. (Damasio; Feeling of What Happens, 48)

Casual voluntary mimicking of expressions of emotion is easily detected as fake. For most of us who are not actors, emotions are a fairly good index of our well-being. (Damasio; Feeling of What Happens, 49)

Extremely limited control we have over the internal milieu and viscera. (Damasio; Feeling of What Happens, 49)

Principal emotion induction sites.  (diagram) Only the ventral medial prefrontal region is visible on the brain surface.  The other regions are subcortical; they are all located close to the brains midline. (Damasio; Feeling of What Happens, 61)

Facial expressions, vocalizations, body postures, and specific patterns of behavior are enacted via emotion. (Damasio; Looking for Spinoza, 63)

In all emotions, multiple volleys of neural and chemical responses change the internal milieu, the viscera, and the musculoskeletal system for a certain period in a particular pattern. (Damasio; Looking for Spinoza, 63)


In a typical emotion, certain regions of the brain's neural system sends commands via two routes.  The chemical molecules in the bloodstream, and neuronal pathways that act on other neurons, muscular fibers, or organs such as the adrenal gland, which in turn release chemicals into the bloodstream. (Damasio; Feeling of What Happens, 67)

Substrate for the representation on emotions, a number of brain regions largely in subcortical nuclei of the brainstem, hypothalamus, basal forebrain, and amygdala. (Damasio; Feeling of What Happens, 79)

None of the emotion triggering sites (the amygdala, the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, the supplementary motor area, and the cingulate) produces an emotion by itself. For an emotion to occur, the site must cause subsequent activity in the basal forebrain, hypothalamus, or nuclei of the brainstem. (Damasio; Looking for Spinoza, 59)

As with any other form of complex behavior, emotion results from the concerted participation of several sites within the brain system. (Damasio; Looking for Spinoza, 59)

Amygdala is an important interface between visual and auditory emotionally competent stimuli and the triggering of emotions, in particular, though not exclusively, fear and anger. (Damasio; Looking for Spinoza, 60)

Emotion-execution sites include the hypothalamus, the basal forebrain, and some nuclei in the brain stem tegmentum. (Damasio; Looking for Spinoza, 62)

Hypothalamus is the master executor of many chemical responses that a part of emotions. (Damasio; Looking for Spinoza, 62)

Classify the emotions in three tiers: (1) background emotions, (2) primary emotions, and (3) social emotions. (Damasio; Looking for Spinoza, 43)

Brain can simulate certain emotional body states internally, as happens in the process of turning the emotion sympathy into a feeling of empathy. (Damasio; Looking for Spinoza, 115)

Emotions proper -- disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, sympathy, and  shame -- aim directly at life regulation by staving off dangers or helping the organism take advantage of an opportunity, or indirectly by facilitating social relations. (Damasio; Looking for Spinoza, 39)

Primary (or basic) emotions include fear, anger, disgust, surprise, sadness, and happiness. (Damasio; Looking for Spinoza, 44)

Primary emotions are easily identifiable in human beings across several cultures. (Damasio; Looking for Spinoza, 44)

Most of what we know about the neurobiology of emotion comes from studying the primary emotions. (Damasio; Looking for Spinoza, 45)

Pleasure or Pain

Emotions are inseparable from the idea of reward or punishment, of pleasure or pain, of approach or withdrawal, of personal advantage and disadvantage.  Inevitably, emotions are inseparable from the idea of good and evil. (Damasio; Feeling of What Happens, 55)


Secondary or Social Emotions

Social emotions include sympathy, embarrassment, shame, guilt, pride, jealousy, envy, gratitude, admiration, indignation, and contempt. (Damasio; Looking for Spinoza, 45)

A whole retinue of regulatory reactions along with elements present in primary emotions can be identified as subcomponents of social emotions in varied combinations. (Damasio; Looking for Spinoza, 45)

Social emotion "contempt" borrows the facial expression of "disgust," a primary emotion that evolved in association with the automatic and beneficial rejection of potentially toxic food. (Damasio; Looking for Spinoza, 45)

Ventromedial prefrontal region is tuned to detect the emotional significance more complex stimuli, natural as well as learned, competent to trigger social emotions. (Damasio; Looking for Spinoza, 61)

Frontal lobe damage alters the ability to respond appropriately to social emotions such as embarrassment, guilt, or despair. (Damasio; Looking for Spinoza, 61)

Reactions that lead to racial and cultural prejudices are based in part on the automatic deployment of social emotions evolutionarily meant to detect difference in others because difference may signal risk or danger. (Damasio; Looking for Spinoza, 40)


Background Emotions

Background emotions can be distinguished from moods, which refer to the sustaining of a given emotion over long periods of time. (Damasio; Looking for Spinoza, 43)