Emotion is an integral part of human life. We might not appreciate it, but in every little thing that we do, emotion somehow has an effect on it. There is joy in eating our favourite food and there is sorrow in seeing hungry people on the street. There is fear in the moments before a big exam and there is surprise in seeing easy questions on the said exam. There is anger upon hearing about a corrupt official, and there is disgust upon reading an article covering up said corruption. Emotions flare up and fade away around us, and it would be beneficial for us to get to know more about our emotions
emotion is an adaptive response. A small set of emotions, like the &quot;Big Six&quot; (happiness, sadness, fear, surprise, anger and disgust), are said to be basic emotions and are universal across different cultures. (Ekman) Studies have shown that certain stimuli, like rotten food, an insult and the loss of a child, evoke similar responses of disgust, anger and sadness in different parts of the world. (Ekman; Ortony and Turner) Anger comes from frustration (something not going your way), fear comes from distress (swimming with sharks) (Ortony and Turner) structures are phylogenetically ancient – limbic system, developed for olfactory sense (mammals had poor vision in the dark). the limbic separation cry, mediated unconsciously by the anterior cingulate gyrus, advertises vulnerability and distinguishes mammals from fish and reptiles. In recent imaging tests, spindle cells have been shown to light up in our skulls like summer evening fireflies in response to a variety of different emotional and social stimuli: the picture of a loved one; scenes of others suffering; feelings of personal embarrassment, or guilt or self-consciousness. Present only at the 4 th month of life. Spindle cells exist in the anterior cingulate cortex, the prefrontal cortex and the insula, a still somewhat mysterious region of the limbic system that may facilitate empathy. Integral part of our survival. Fear, for example, can help us cope with danger. When we're afraid, our hearts beat faster, our respiration rate increases, our pupils dilate. This physiologic response prepares us to respond to the source of fear: to fight or to fly. Without that response, we'd be sitting ducks against all sorts of predators. Later on, these behaviors became learned and automatic actions. The studies of Charles Darwin support this idea, when he observed that even animals exhibit and understand emotion to some extent. Certain animals all over the world have similar behaviors representing similar emotions. To show aggression, gulls point their beaks at one another and dogs tense up and face the aggressor. This show of force are external expressions of internal emotion, and lets the other know exactly how one feels, without the need for actual combat. For people to show that they are happy, we don’t need to tell everyone how we feel – a wide smile and a hearty laugh is enough. Thousands of years of smiling have taught us that it means happiness, and that’s enough to convey that emotion.
The other perspective is that emotion is a social construct. Emotions, they say, does not always have a physiologic correlation. They are observed through actions, like giving roses and chocolates. These actions are then mediated by social norms – love isn’t exactly expressed through giving coal and soap. They are voluntary behavior i.e. we choose to be guilty, to be in love. Even emotions that are said to be biologically grounded, they say, can also have cultural bases. It can be used strategically to get what we want. Bad restaurant service, as we might have all experienced in one way or another, has occasionally been remedied through shouting and fist pounding. Conversely, we can also repress our anger, like being patient while stuck in the congested streets of Manila. Anger: furrowing of the brow, raised eyelids, teeth showing,
Let's start with the classic example of Phineas Gage. Gage was a good man, religious, respectful and reliable. He was a foreman in the construction of railroads, and he was in charge of levelling terrain using explosives. One tragic day at work, the gunpowder he was setting suddenly detonated, propelling the metal rod he was holding through his face, piercing skull and brain. He survived, amazingly, but he was forever changed. He became irreverent and impulsive, unreliable and undependable. It was later found that the metal rod damaged his medial prefrontal lobes, which we now know are involved in planning and emotion.
After further research, scientists have found that the limbic system is very much involved in emotion. The limbic system is a collection of nuclei and tracts that border the thalamus. Its key structures include, but are not limited to, the amygdala, hippocampus, and hypothalamus. These structures border the thalamus, which is important because that is where sensory information is integrated. Perception of the environment is critical in our emotional response. There is no happiness in an odorless, colorless bouquet of flowers. We will not fear a cockroach that doesn't bite or crawl on our skin. The thalamus collects sensory information, and then the limbic system processes them and sends signals to the appropriate areas to produce what we label as emotion. Amygdala – emotional memory, hippocampus – event memory, Prefrontal cortex – processes what emotion to portray
Oxytocin seems to permit mammals to overcome their natural aversion to extreme proximity, and thus, oxytocin has been popularly rechristened the “cuddle hormone.” Also implicated in delivery and milk letdown, opposes fight-or-flight (calms person down). Reduces cortisol, reduces stress But in mammals, these same dopaminergic tracts run from the mid-brain–the reptile brain–to the limbic system–the part of the mammalian brain that serves attachment. Then, the transmission continues to the anterior cingulate gyrus-that part of the mammalian limbic cortex that makes the past emotionally meaningful. In mature human beings, the same dopaminergic tracts travel to the most recently evolved portions of the orbitomedial frontal lobes that serve planning, empathy, morality and a mother’s smile as she gazes at her baby. There is a theory that too little serotonin in the prefrontal cortex predisposes to anger. This hormone acts to support emotional stability generally – to stop us overreacting– and when serotonin levels had been artificially lowered, people became more aggressive following any provocation. However, giving Prozac doesn't stop anger and violence. Where surveys have been conducted, as many as 85% of people reported feeling angry once or twice a week and a few said they were angry several times a day. Some individuals seem to have an angry personality and carry around an air of hostility, which is a personality disorder that has been shown to increase the risk of heart disease and strokes.
One of the systems directly affected by emotion is the autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system controls our unconscious bodily functions. Different emotions can increase or decrease heart rate, dilate or constrict the pupils, increase or decrease blood flow to muscles and so on. This concept is taken advantage of by the polygraph, or lie detector test, which doesn't directly measure the truthfulness of a statement. Although with skilled examiners it does a good job of separating truths from lies, it actually detects the physiologic emotional response of a person in relation to a given statement. Lying and telling the truth elicit different emotions, and thus the examiner detects the subtle changes it does to the body.
Facial expression is another well-known indicator of our emotion. The so-called basic emotions of happiness, sadness, fear, surprise, anger, and disgust were categorized by Ekman and Friesen by their facial expression correlates. Their studies show that these six emotions are expressed among various cultures, and can be understood between different peoples. A smile from a person in Sri Lanka looks the same as a smile from a person from Hawaii, and can be understood by both. And like primary colors, these emotions can be mixed and matched to express more complex emotions. Conversely, studies have also shown that putting on a particular facial expression can make a person feel that emotion. According to the facial feedback hypothesis, &quot;forcing&quot; a smile or a frown can produce the feeling of happiness or sadness.
Emotion is also said to be implicated in decision making. Phrases like &quot;going with your gut&quot;, &quot;decide with your head not your heart&quot;, and &quot;calm down before making rash decisions&quot; reflect how much emotion affects our thought processes. The extent to which decision-making is affected is measured experimentally by the Iowa Gambling Test. Subjects are asked to pick a card between 4 decks, gaining or losing money depending on which deck was picked. This test reflects orbitofrontal cortex functioning – important in making sound decisions, and how it is affected by emotion, operationalized as attention to reward, learning, and impulsivity. Persons with abnormal prefrontal cortices like those with schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder made poorer decision as compared to normal individuals. Memory and emotion are said to be inherently related - memories with strong emotions are easier and more vividly recalled. Now, this isn't to say that emotion is critical in making sound decisions. Sometimes, we have to suppress it even just a little bit to clear our heads. Judges and juries, for example, have to be as unbiased and impartial as possible in handing out just verdicts. Injecting some anger against the accused or being fearful of the prosecution can produce unfair judgements. On the other hand, having a strong emotion isn't always detrimental in thinking. Painters and singers are fuelled by their emotions. They let their emotions run freely to create their masterpieces. The multi-awarded singer Adele channelled the emotions she experienced from her breakup and built a successful career from it.
Now there are a lot of emotions to discuss, but for our purposes we shall be focusing on happiness. There are many definitions of happiness, but most of revolve around two central ingredients: hedonia and eudaimonia. Hedonia refers to positive affect or pleasure, and eudaimonia refers to a sense of meaning or engagement. Surveys have shown that while these are two distinct concepts, people who rate their current hedonic mood as positive and who rate their eudamonic life as high also rate themselves as generally happy. Put these two together and we have the psychologic operationalization of happiness.
Emotion is a response to stimuli – good music, fine food, noise, pain etc Coding = happy feeling produces firing of certain areas Causation = brain manipulation produces feeling of happiness It is important, however, to again make a distinction between brain activity coding and causing pleasure. Neural coding is inferred in practice by measuring brain activity correlated to a pleasant stimulus , using human neuroimaging 22 techniques, or electrophysiological or neurochemical activation measures in animals 44. Causation is generally inferred on the basis of a change in pleasure as a consequence of a brain manipulation such as a lesion or stimulation 30, 45. Coding and causation often go together for the same substrate, but they may diverge so that coding occurs alone.
The brain appears rather frugal in ‘liking’ mechanisms that cause pleasure reactions. As shown below, some hedonic mechanisms are found deep in the brain (nucleus accumbens, ventral pallidum, brainstem) and other candidates are in the cortex (orbitofrontal, cingulate, medial prefrontal and insular cortices) 14, 31-37. Pleasure-activated brain networks are widespread, but compelling evidence for pleasure causation (detected as increases in ‘liking’ reactions consequent to brain manipulation) has so far been found for only a few hedonic hotspots in the subcortical structures. Analogous to scattered islands that form a single archipelago, hedonic hotspots are anatomically distributed but interact to form a functional integrated circuit. The circuit obeys control rules that are largely hierarchical and organized into brain levels. Top levels function together as a cooperative heterarchy, so that, for example, multiple unanimous ‘votes’ in favor from simultaneously-participating hotspots in the nucleus accumbens and ventral pallidum are required for opioid stimulation in either forebrain site to enhance ‘liking’ above normal Pleasure encoding may reach an apex of cortical localization in a mid-anterior subregion within the orbitofrontal cortex, where neuroimaging activity correlates strongly to subjective pleasantness ratings of food varieties 33 – and to other pleasures such as sexual orgasms 46, drugs 47, chocolate 21 and music 48. Most importantly, mid-anterior orbitofrontal activity tracks changes in subjective pleasure, such as a decline in palatability when the reward value of one food was reduced by eating it to satiety (while remaining high to another food) 20, 33. The midanterior subregion of orbitofrontal cortex is thus a prime candidate for the coding of subjective experience of pleasure 20. Another coding site for positive hedonics in orbitofrontal cortex is along its medial edge that has activity related to the valence of positive and negative events 34, contrasted to lateral portions that have been suggested to code unpleasant events 49 (although lateral activity may reflect a signal to escape the situation, rather than displeasure per se 34, 50-52). This mediallateral hedonic gradient interacts with an abstraction-concreteness gradient in the posterioranterior dimension, so that more complex or abstract reinforcers (such as monetary gain and loss) 49 are represented more anteriorly in the orbitofrontal cortex than less complex sensory rewards (such as taste)21. The medial region does not, however, appear to change its activity with reinforcer devaluation, and so may not reflect the full dynamics of pleasure. the nucleus accumbens hotspot causes pleasure ‘liking’ when stimulated with opioid or cannabinoid neurotransmitter signals, but the same spot only amplifies ‘wanting’ without ‘liking’ when stimulated by dopamine. Likewise opioids are no neurochemical guarantee of pleasure, except in the hotspot. If the same opioid microinjection is moved a millimeter outside the hotspot only ‘wanting’ without ‘liking’ is generated in all the rest of the nucleus accumbens. One major hotspot has been found in the nucleus accumbens, a brain structure at the bottom front of the brain, specifically in its medial shell region near the center of the structure. Other hotspots have been found further back in the brain. For example, a very important hedonic hotspot lies in the ventral pallidum, which is near the hypothalamus near the very bottom center of the forebrain and receives most outputs from the nucleus accumbens. Still other hotspots may be found in more distant parts of the rodent brain, possibly as far front as limbic regions of prefrontal cortex, and almost certainly as far back as deep brainstem regions including the parabrachial nucleus in the top of the pons (Figure 3) Those few hedonic hotspots in which damage does destroy normal pleasure might be particularly important to hedonia in happy people. The most crucial hotspot for normal pleasures known so far is the one in the ventral pallidum. The ventral pallidum hotspot is the only brain location where lesion damage has been found in our lab studies to eliminate normal sensory pleasure, and so convert sweetness from a nice into a nasty experience (Pecina 2008; Pecina and Smith 2010; Smith et al. 2010). This site is still preserved in locked-in patients, perhaps contributing to their remaining well-being. Damage to the ventral pallidum brain site abolishes hedonic ‘liking’ reactions to sweetness and replaces them instead with disgust or ‘disliking’ reactions (e.g., gapes) as though the sweet taste had turned bitter (Berridge et al. 2010; Cromwell and Berridge 1993; Smith et al. 2010). The ventral pallidum is the chief recipient of output from the nucleus accumbens and part of a corticolimbic circuit that extends from prefrontal cortex to nucleus accumbens to ventral pallidum, which then loops up via thalamus to begin the circuit all over again in prefrontal cortex (Smith et al 2010).
Motivation is another domain that emotion plays a part in. Motivation is linked by our reward and pleasure system. People are motivated to do something when there is adequate reward or incentive to do so, such as monetary gain or internal fulfilment. Without sufficient incentive, we won't be motivated to do anything. Most of the time, happiness is the underlying emotion in motivation. Being rewarded for a behavior, with money for example, teaches us that that behavior is worth repeating. That reward, that feeling of joy, becomes our motivation, and we do what we do to get that reward, to feel that joy. Some people are happy to get money, some people are happy to make a difference in society, some people are happy to make other people happy and so on. We can be motivated by different things, but at the core of that motivation is an underlying feeling of happiness. In addition, as mentioned above, pleasure is translated into motivational processes in part by activating a second component of reward termed ‘wanting’ or incentive salience, which makes stimuli attractive when attributed to them by mesolimbic brain systems 39. Incentive salience depends in particular on mesolimbic dopamine neurotransmission (though other neurotransmitters and structures also are involved).
A concrete example of how positive emotions affect human lives is through the field of positive psychology. Positive Psychology is the scientific study of the strengths and virtues that enable individuals and communities to thrive. It is founded on the belief that people want to live with meaning and fulfilment. It emphasizes that we do not aim to just live, but to live well. Surviving is easy: proper nutrition is all we need basically. We lived like that for millions of years, living as hunters and gatherers. But eventually, people realized that merely surviving is not enough. Homo sapiens started to evolve, and slowly became humans. We learned how to speak, how to sing, how to paint. And through these outlets, among other things, humans started to become &quot;better&quot; in a way. We're still surviving, but now we've added another dimension to life - finding joy and meaning in life. Now, we strive to be the best that we can be. Living is easy, but maximizing life is a bigger challenge. This brings us back to positive psychology. Positive psychology has three central concerns: positive emotions, positive individual traits and positive institution. Understanding positive emotions entails the study of contentment with the past, happiness in the present, and hope for the future. Understanding positive individual traits consists of the study of the strengths and virtues, such as the capacity for love and work, courage, compassion, resilience, creativity, curiosity, integrity, self-knowledge, moderation, self-control, and wisdom. Understanding positive institutions entails the study of the strengths that foster better communities, such as justice, responsibility, civility, parenting, nurturance, work ethic, leadership, teamwork, purpose, and tolerance. These three concepts help push people toward the right direction - towards personal growth.
Studies on positive psychology show that there are plenty of benefits with promoting happiness and positive emotions. Happiness has been positively correlated with better health. First, persons who are happy tend to be healthier and live longer. In the famous “nun study”, researchers found that the happiest quartile of nuns lived an average of 6.9 years longer than the unhappiest quartile of nuns. Similarly, a 35-year longitudinal analysis of male Harvard students showed that optimistic individuals had significantly less morbidity at midlife as opposed to pessimistic individuals. Second, other benefits associated with experiencing positive emotion include increased cognitive flexibility and creativity and perhaps self-control. In one experimental study, physicians in whom positive emotion was induced considered the correct diagnosis more quickly and also did not close their diagnostic consideration prematurely. This study suggests that physicians in positive moods can potentially make better diagnostic decisions, again reducing morbidity for themselves and their patients. Third, although it is not yet known whether interventions aimed at increasing happiness will reduce the incidence of mental illness, that potential is certainly present. The promotion of emotional well-being is consistent with the bio psychosocial model that is ubiquitous in family medicine. The holistic approach of family medicine aims to address the medical, personal and social aspects of people. By promoting positive emotions, all three aspects are easily accomplished. In short, happy people have better quality of life. Richard Dawkins and Adolf Hitler would call that a really dumb way to pass on one’s gene pool. Thus, the selfish but very “fit” and scientifically advanced Third Reich took a dim view of the sick and believed that a society’s resources should be devoted only to the genetically healthy and to selfish conquest. In order to decide whether the Nazi or Benedictine faith is better suited to a Darwinian perspective, we must depend not upon soft-hearted “liberals” battling the sharp wits of the right, but we must depend upon science–upon empirical long-term follow-up. The Nazi order lasted barely a decade, but after 1500 years, the Benedictine Order is still alive and well. The brilliantly rational but spiritually challenged French Revolution lasted no longer than the Third Reich. In short, I would conclude that positive emotions of the loving irrational limbic system are just as important to cultural survival as is the ingenious and rational neocortex.
With all of these benefits, how exactly do we promote positive vibes? Physical activity is one concrete way, since stagnation is generally related to feelings of depression. Sports and exercise also brings about the production of endorphins, which produce feelings of well-being similar to opioids. Relaxation therapy can also be employed to help people cope with stress and the comorbidities associated with it. Yoga, meditation and even simple aerobics have been shown to ease the mind and relax the body. By increasing positive emotions or reducing negative emotions, we can healthier, more productive and have a much better quality of life.
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Good vibes: Emotion and Happiness
Miguel LosantasUPCM class 2015
*Emotion *Positive Importance Psychology Perspectives on Definition emotion Known benefits What it can affect Interventions*Happiness Definition Neural correlates Motivation
*Integral part of life*Can be positive or negative