Abstract: The current view of brain organization supports the notion that there is a considerable degree of functional specialization and that many regions can be conceptualized as either 'affective' or 'cognitive'. Popular examples are the amygdala in the domain of emotion and the lateral prefrontal cortex in cognition. This prevalent view is problematic for a number of reasons. It will be argued that complex cognitive-emotional behaviors have their basis in networks of brain areas, none of which should be conceptualized as specifically affective or cognitive. Central to cognitive-emotional interactions are brain areas with a high degree of connectivity called hubs, which are critical for regulating the flow and integration of information between regions. To illustrate cognitive-emotional processing, I will discuss a series of studies that have investigated interactions between emotion and perception, and emotion and executive function. In the final part of my talk, I will address the following question: What is the relationship between emotion and consciousness? I will discuss how large-scale interactions are critical for both emotion-cognition and consciousness, suggesting that the study of these interactions is needed for advancing our understanding of their relationship.
Pessoa, L. On the relationship between emotion and cognition. Nature Reviews Neuroscience 2008. Feb;9(2):148-58.http://lce.umd.edu/publications_files/Pessoa_NRN_2008.pdf
Tsuchiya N, Adolphs R. Emotion and consciousness. Trends Cogn Sci, 2007 Apr;11(4):158-67
Thompson, E. & Varela, F. J. Radical embodiment: neural dynamics and consciousness. Trends Cogn. Sci. 5, 418â€“425 (2001).
Wow! Thank you L. Pessoa for having exposed a new way to think about the brain. Let's forget about that tendency that we humans have to categorize things so easily; we should no longer behave on the basis of brain regions or neural networks. Neural networks as being part of bigger networks that create computational maps representing behaviours in the end is really something I'd like to see more often. We shouldn't be expecting from the localization approach to inform us about structured behaviours (and especially not consciousness).ReplyDelete
Since the very first beginning of this summer school, I'm aware of how much importance is given to interneuronal relationships (in visual perception overall), but these are still not convincing enough in light of the complexity of the subject matter we're investigating all. We need to think absolutely in terms of functional connectivity and to use engineering, computation, mathematics, to integrate all of this.
Shady, thanks for your compliments!Delete
I agree with you in all respects, but I'm in the minority in "cognitive/affective neuroscience". Most researchers are very structure-centric.
My own background is math, computer science, and computational neuroscience. So I definitely encourage you to pursue these areas. I think they are absolutely critical to successfully studying the mind/brain.
Let me know if you want to discuss any of these issues further!
Thank you for your response!Delete
The vast majority of the presentations that were part of the summer school had a localization approach (i.e., brain regions and loops, because I tend to consider loops as being investigated on a localization approach too). Although they all present very important findings and are necessary, I know that we'll never find any answers in continuing only in this direction.
I don't possess any background in math, computer science, and computational neuroscience. I have a neuropsychological background, which is interesting when understanding things on a more holistic level; however, when it comes to research, I think that it'll get always more complicated for us neuropsychologists, physicians, philosophers, to get involved in research. Research appears always more and more open to people like you, who possess the adequate knowledges to pursue such fundamental studies and who can have a very much integrated understanding of where we are, what has to be done, and if it can be done. This "novel" approach of understanding the brain is particularly important in a clinical setting because without changing the big lines that we have of the roles of brain regions, it still has a lot of relevance to better characterize people's injuries if we can have an integrated idea of how everything communicates.
I am fascinated by this approach and surely will read more of your publications.
But remember that one can, at any point in our lives, try to learn new techniques or areas. Its' not easy, but worth learning some of the basic vocabulary of fields that are new to us.Delete
Thanks! It is really great to read this encouraging comments on learning new skills at any point of live!Delete
Dr. Pessoa presented a wealth of fMRI data suggesting that presentation of emotionally relevant stimuli increases performance on tasks related to perception. He used this data to conclude that emotion and perception/cognition are inextricably linked together.ReplyDelete
As far as I was able to gather, all of these studies used aversive stimuli (electrical shock, fearful faces) to evoke an emotional response. How does one dissociate the confound that all of these stimuli will modulate attention and/or arousal, independent of their emotional significance?
you bring up an important point, one that is at times brought up by my colleagues too.
I did not talk about a second, parallel, line of research that I develop on perception/cognition and motivation (= reward). In that area, your question is even more brought up.
While I think this issue needs to be considered to some extent, I know believe that it is probably misleading to *try* to separate these issues as atomic processes. More discussion on this will be available in a book I'm finishing up. One place to take a look is this paper of mine: http://lce.umd.edu/publications_files/Pessoa_FrontNeurosci_2010.pdf
especially Figures 3C and 3D.
Let me know if you have other questions.
Could you specify the notable differences that you might have noticed in the connectivity characteristics as regard negative and positive emotions, in the way the information is processed?
The field of research on positive emotions seems to be relatively recent compared to negative emotions. Both kinds of emotions involve different cognitive consequences. For instance, according to broaden-and-build theory of Barbra Fredrickson: negative emotions narrow the spectrum of thought actions whereas positive emotions broaden the repertoire of thought actions. How does the neural connectivity level inform us?
I'm not aware of anything that looks into that the way you ask. People (and my lab) have looked at connectivity with reward, but that's a little bit different and not what you are thinking about, right?
In any case, check this paper if you are interested:
Indeed my question was not focused on reward. However, thank you for the reference. This is very interesting.Delete
I'm a bit confuse about what Dr. Pessoa said: "attention is required for the expression of valence". I'm not sure what he means by that. When perceiving an aversive stimulus our body is already preparing to react even wiithout being truly conscious of what we are dealing with so the valence is present. Maybe I misunderstood something? (sorry I had published this comment on Dr. Lau's abstract page by mistake)ReplyDelete
you say: "When perceiving an aversive stimulus our body is already preparing to react even wiithout being truly conscious of what we are dealing with so the valence is present."
That's exactly what my research is challenging. I don't see that in my experiments. When I say that attention is required for the expression I mean that attention is required for the valence effect (fearful > neutral) to be observed. Otherwise, there was *no* difference between the conditions. This is what my research and many other follow up studies show.
Thank you! I clearly had misunderstood! I will make further reading on this subject, it is very interesting since for now I had learn that we had a "reflex-style" reaction to an aversive stimulus and then modulate our reaction with the context (like "oh my a snake! Oh it's in a cage"). Thank you again for your answer!Delete
You can find my papers at emotioncognition.org. Several are conceptual papers that summarize many of the issues. One possible entry point is the one with Ralph Adolphs in Nat Rev Neurosci. You can just skip or skim the more anatomical parts, but the argument is made there in a pretty complete fashion.Delete
I had a blog that I need to start updating again that makes the points in summarized fashion:
Another paper is on the amygdala itself, which does a lot more than just "fear":
Emotions have been quite neglected so far in the different talks. However, as Luiz Pessoa showed, it seems to be quite central with the notion of feelings and consciousness. What is it to feel if not telling us that something "feels" good and has to be done again or that something "feels" bad and don't have to be done again. And what about memory? also neglected so far. If no record of the feeling of the outcome is done, how consciousness can even exist?ReplyDelete
I agree that emotion is quite central to consciousness and that it is relatively neglected!Delete
Luiz, what do you think of Damasio's integration of emotions in his last book "Self comes to Mind"?Delete
I haven't read it yet, but should do that soon!Delete
Dr. Pessoa, do you have any plans to do MEG or EEG concurrently with your fMRI studies? It will be interesting to know how functional connectivity measured using these methods with greater temporal resolutions match up with your results from fMRI? (I know your fMRI analysis is already a lot and quite informative but just curious what is in the works for your lab!).ReplyDelete
yes, we will be starting that soon. I have a couple of EEG/MEG studies but they don't address the integration part which is something that I want to focus on.Delete
Here are the links:
This one is not online for some reason (I can send you if you'd like):
Japee S, Crocker L, Carver F, Pessoa L, Ungerleider LG. Individual differences in valence modulation of face-selective M170 response. Emotion 2009 Feb;9(1):59-69.
Pessoa proposes that emotion and perception are highly-integrated and non-dissociable. I'm interested to see how this perspective translates into other cognitive functions are are difficult to separate from consciousness, like language or decision-making.ReplyDelete
sorry, I have no idea about this one!ReplyDelete
Great talk, and your ideas on global consciousness networks were, I think, some of the most compelling we've heard at the conference so far!ReplyDelete
There was some discussion on the relevance of the more primitive retina--> superior colliculus --amygdala path - Maybe I missed this point, if it was addressed, but is it possible for blind patients to undergo unconscious visual fear conditioning via blindsight mechanisms?
If so, Dr. Pessoa and Dr. Lau could come up with some excellent collaborative work
I have problems that residual vision goes via the pathway that you are indicating; see a summary in a blog that I have not updated much lately: http://cognitionemotion.wordpress.com/ReplyDelete
But there are lots of other pathways that could support those abilities.
At the end of his talk, Dr. Pessoa claims that it is not possible to identify certain areas of the brain as pertaining to solely to emotions or as pertaining solely to perception/cognition. The empirical evidence he gives for this view is very persuasive, but he sometimes seem to defend a stronger view, namely that there are no psychological mechanisms that are purely emotional or purely cognitive. (That is how I interpret his claim that emotions and perception/cognition are highly integrated and not decomposable.) On the stronger view, logical reasoning, for instance, would have both an emotional and a cognitive component and it would be impossible even in principle to take these two components apart. I wonder if this is plausible. Is there any empirical evidence supporting the stronger view? Or I have misunderstood Pessoa?ReplyDelete
Logically inferring from P->Q and P that Q is doing (computation); but understanding that it is true is feeling -- just as Searle's understanding of English and non-understanding of Chinese are both feeling, not just doing (saying).Delete
Xavier Dery @XavierDeryReplyDelete
Pessoa found that monitoring paired brain structures helps to predict behavior more accurately than checking single regions. Nice! #TuringC
12:36 PM - 7 Jul 12 via Twicca Twitter app
I really enjoyed Dr Pessoa's view of the way we should understand the brain. During my undergrad degree in psychology, I always have been skeptical towards neuroscience, since I always found it to be a new version of phrenology. Yet, I find myself in this field because of researchers like him, who encourage us to think outside the box and to challenge the generally accepted visions.ReplyDelete
Through the conference I've been wondering if our trouble with researching consciousness isn't something basic to the way we study things: we analyze, separate, distinguish, analyze.ReplyDelete
If consciousness is supposed to be an integrative process, we may run into trouble simply by the way we study things.
Pessoa's perspective in seeing emotion and cognition as inseparable, takes a step towards this integrative perspective that may help us elucidate the processes of consciousness.
Perhaps other processes are interlinked similarly and using this approach will allow us to make several steps further in our understanding of the brain.
Of course, the process by which we get to such an integrated perspective is by positing functional specializations that turn out to be false.Delete
Localization (and decomposition) as a standalone explanatory strategy can obviously be tremendously naive. But, if we regard it as a research heuristic, then its value becomes quite clear. Localization and decomposition often yield overly simplistic views of how a given system works, but even those failed hypotheses are informative.
I forgot to mention something:Delete
My point is that decomposition and localization are (at least according to Bechtel and Richardson 2010) basic and extremely useful research heuristics.
Even if we decompose the brain in a set of interconnected networks of areas, we're still decomposing a system. The difference is that this particular decomposition strategy might be more fruitful than previous ones because it rests on a more accurate view of the brain.
Of course, calling attention to a faulty decomposition hypothesis is an important step in brain research!
I came across an interesting article that explores the link between abnormally high emotional load (nightmares) and cognitive performance (as assessed though neuropsychological tasks). In support of Dr. Pessoa's theories, those with nightmares performed more poorly on cognitive tests. The findings could not entirely be explained through concomitant sleep deprivation or waking anxiety. Moreover, nightmares were associated with abnormal prefrontal and fronto-limbic activity during REM sleep.ReplyDelete
Simor 2012. Impaired executive functions in subjects with frequent nightmares as reflected by performance in different neuropsychological tasks. Brain and Cognition.
I thought Dr. Pessoa might be interested since this slightly different approach to similar questions yielded corroborating evidence!