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10 STARS! THE NEW SCIENCE OF EMOTIONS
on October 7, 2012
I would have to say that this is the most transformational book I've read in a decade. It consolidates Panksepp's 30 years of research on human and animal emotions, and supports similar studies as well. What you and I have been calling emotions would be better stated as feelings: conscious cognitive reflections of the emotional experiences that drive us to take action in the world.
The most important emotion is SEEKING, which I call the "desire/acquire" circuit in the brain. When we see, hear, taste, or experience something new, different, and interesting, lower brain functions wake us up and release dopamine, one of the main pleasure neurochemicals in the brain. This gives rise to consciousness (activity in specific parts of our frontal lobe) in all mammals, and perhaps even for birds and reptiles. Humans have larger frontal lobes, thus we have a wider range of conscious choices. This consciousness gives rise to secondary emotions that are more diverse than the primary emotions of SEEKING, CARING, FEAR, ANGER, LUST, PLAY/JOY and SADNESS, which Panksepp has meticulously mapped out in terms of brain structures, functions, and neurochemicals.
The most surprising emotion he documents is PLAY, without which animals and humans would not be able to develop cooperative social behavior and empathy. Fear, anger, and sadness have made it into popular literature with 50% accuracy, but SEEKING and PLAY have not been talked about much. SEEKING motivates us to take action, and PLAY gives us the skills to build thriving relationships with others. His summary of the nature of consciousness is brilliant, but be forewarned: there's a lot of scholarly material and academic research discussed here. But if you are a therapist, a teacher, or a person who wants to understand how our emotional biology creates our world of consciousness, this book will arouse your precuneus and blow your mind (or should I say dorsolateral prefrontal cortex).
I'd place Panksepp as one of the 10 most important neuroscientists of the century.