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Behavioural response



Behavioural response patterns

Three components:
Motor– muscle movements appropriate to the situation that elicits them
Autonomic – facilitate the behaviours and allows for quick mobilization of energy for vigorous movement


The Autonomic Nervous System

-Sympathetic division
Associated with energy expenditure
Derives from thoracic and lumbar levels of the spinal cord
-Parasympathetic division
Associated with energy conservation
Derives from cranial and sacral levels of the spinal cord


Behavioural response patterns

Motor– muscle movements appropriate to the situation that elicits them
Autonomic – facilitate the behaviours and allows for quick mobilization of energy for vigorous movement
Hormonal – reinforce the autonomic responses
Adrenal medulla secretes E and NE which increase blood flow to muscle and cause nutrients stored in the body to be utilised


Role of the amygdala

The 3 components of an emotional response (provoked by aversive stimuli) are controlled by separate neural systems, but all three are integrated by the amygdala.
Amygdala is part of the limbic system
The limbic system is considered phylogenetically old cortex and is primarily involved in motivation and emotion


Central nucleus of the amygdala

-Threat stimuli increase neural firing within central nucleus of the amygdala
-Lesions of central nucleus diminish emotional responses:
-Reduced fear responses to threat stimuli
-Reduced chance of developing ulcers to stress
-Reduced levels of stress hormones
-Electrical stimulation of central nucleus induces fear and agitation


Innate and learned emotional responses

-Certain stimuli naturally elicit fear reactions
-Central nucleus of the amygdala is particularly important for aversive emotional learning
-If neutral stimuli are paired with the feared stimulus, animals can learn to be afraid


Conditioning of emotional responses

-Fear stimuli elicit emotional responses
e.g. Loud noises, painful stimuli
-Fear stimuli can be associated with neutral stimuli
-Tone that occurs prior to a foot shock
-Eventually, the neutral stimulus will elicit an emotional response
-Tone previously paired with shock elicits fear
-Termed the Conditioned Emotional Response (CER)


Aggressive behaviour

-Inputs from the amygdala and hypothalamus integrated by the Periaqueductal Grey Matter (PAG)
Dorsal PAG – defensive rage
Ventral PAG – predation


Role of the neocortex

-The vmPFC is especially important for humans to analyse and react emotionally to complex situations involving other people, (involving societal rules, personal experiences, memories and judgments).
vmPFC is not directly involved in making judgments but is involved in translating these judgments into appropriate feelings and behaviours


Ventromedial prefrontal cortex

-Inputs: thalamus, temporal cortex, ventral tegmental area, olfactory system and amygdala.
-Outputs to various parts of the brain including amygdala, thus affecting variety of behaviours and responses.
-Damage reduces inhibitions and self-concern; become indifferent to consequences of actions; pain no longer produces emotional response


Damaging the prefrontal cortex

Case of Phineas Gage.
Foreman of a railway construction gang
While tamping down blasting powder for a dynamite charge, Gage inadvertently sparked an explosion
The tamping iron (3 feet long, 13 pounds and 1.25 inches thick) entered his left cheek bone, obliterating his left eye on its way through his brain and out the top of his scull


Damaging the prefrontal cortex

Immediately after, Gage stood up and spoke

Within 2 months he had completely recovered
Could walk & speak
Demonstrated normal awareness of surroundings

His personality, however, changed considerably
Before accident: well balanced, shrewd, capable, and efficient
After accident: fitful, irreverent, unable to settle on any one plan


Removing the prefrontal cortex

Jacobsen, Wolf and Jackson (1935) removed the entire frontal lobes of a chimpanzee with emotional disturbances

Brickner (1936) performed a similar procedure in a human with a frontal lobe tumour; this did not result in intellectual impairment.



Egas Moniz—Tentatives opératoires dans le traitement de certaines psychoses, 1936
Nobel Prize, 1949
- Prefrontal Lobotomy
10,000 operations pre-1949 in U.S.


outcome of prefontal lobptomies

Tooth & Newton (1961)
10,365 prefrontal lobotomies
70% “improvement”
6% mortality
1% epilepsy
1.5% marked disinhibition


Lobotomy outcomes

-Patients were not only no longer distressed by their mental conflicts but also seem to have little capacity for any emotional experiences - pleasurable or otherwise.
-Resulted in personality changes including childishness, dull, apathetic, listless, without drive or initiative, flat, lethargic, placid and unconcerned, docile, needing pushing, passive, lacking in spontaneity, without aim or purpose, preoccupied and dependent.


Communication of emotions

postures, facial expression, sounds

Visual and audial


Facial expressions signal emotion

Darwin: emotions involve innate patterns of muscle contraction, often of the facial muscles

Facial expressions signal our emotional states to others
Facial expressions are common across cultures
Facial expressions are similar in blind and sighted children


Universality of facial expression

Ekman & Friesen (1971) studied the ability of members of an isolated tribe of New Guinea to recognize facial expressions of emotion.

They had no trouble doing so and themselves produced facial expressions that Westerners readily recognized.


Culture and the expression of emotion

Display rules: rules that prescribe under what situations we should or should not display signs of particular emotions
Ekman (1972) showed a distressing film to Japanese and American college students, singly and in the presence of a visitor
When alone Japanese and American students showed the same facial expressions
When they were with another person, however, the Japanese students were less likely to show negative emotions and masked these with polite smiles


Expression of emotion

Not all muscles of the face responsible for emotional expressions are under voluntary control
volitional facial paresis
emotional facial paresis


Expression of emotion

Right hemisphere more important for emotional expression
chimerical faces


Recognition of emotion

Effective communication is a two-way process; other people must be able to recognise your emotions
Depends on vision and audition
Hemispheric specialisation: right hemisphere specialised for emotion, left for meaning
Evidence from imaging studies
Brain damage to right hemisphere impairs recognition of emotions


recognition of emotion continued

Localisation of Function
patients with discrete lesions can:
fail to recognise a face, while correctly identifying an emotional expression
fail to visually identify an emotion, while recognising the face
fail to visually identify an emotion, while identifying the emotion by audition


Role of the amygdala

Not only plays a role in emotional responses, but also in the recognition of emotions, particularly in the recognition of fear
Imaging studies indicate increases in activity of amygdala when view facial expressions of fear, but not happiness
Role of amygdala appears to be limited to recognition of the visual component of emotion


Visual input to the amygdala

Two pathways:
Sub-cortical input from superior colliculus and pulvinar (nucleus in thalamus) provides emotional information

Cortical input from visual association cortex


Visual input to the amygdala

-Magnocellular system (sub-cortical)
Movement, depth, contrast, low frequency
Early in evolution, rapid
Source of emotional information to amygdala
-Parvocellular system (visual cortex)
Colour vision, fine detail, high frequency
Recent evolutionary development, slow
Part of visual association cortex responsible for recognition of faces receives input from here


Vuilleumier et al 2003

MRI imaging study using control and fearful faces from previous slide
High spatial frequency, parvocellular information to fusiform face area of the visual cortex used to recognize faces (greatest effect with high frequency faces)
Low spatial frequency, magnocellular information to pulvinar and amygdala used to recognise expressions of fear (greatest effect with low frequency faces)


Visual and emotional recognition

Some blind individuals are able to identify the emotional expression of an individual

Amygdala registers recognition of a fear- provoking picture before it is visually recognised (reflecting speed of magnocellular system)


Multiple systems for emotion recognition

Gaze direction cells

Neurons in the superior temporal sulcus that are involved in recognising the direction of gaze.


Emotional experience (Feelings)

Where does the feeling come from?

James - Lange Theory

Cannon - Bard Theory


Common sense theory of emotion

An emotion-provoking stimulus produces the feeling of an emotion, and then this feeling produces physiological changes and behavior


James-Lange Theory of Emotion

The theory suggests that behaviours and physiological responses are directly elicited by situations and that feelings of emotions are produced by feedback from these behaviours and responses

Thus feelings are the result, not cause of emotional responses


james lang info continued

An emotion-provoking stimulus directly produces physiological changes and behavior, and then these events produce the feeling of an emotion


Cannon-Bard Theory of Emotion

Opposed the James-Lange view by stating that the initial component is a cognitive appraisal of the situation, which then simultaneously leads to the emotional feeling, visceral changes and appropriate behaviour

I.e., you run and are afraid because the situation is judged to demand it


cannon-bard continued

An emotion-provoking stimulus activates the “thalamus,” which simultaneously sends messages to the cortex, producing the feeling of an emotion, to the viscera, producing arousal, and to the skeletal muscles, producing behavior


Cannon’s Argument

The same visceral changes occur in very different emotional states and in non-emotional states (“fight or flight” response)
The viscera are relatively insensitive structures
Sympathectomized cats
Still responded as though they were feeling emotion in every observable way except those that their surgeries prevented ( i.e., piloerection)
But, important to distinguish between emotional feelings and emotional behaviour


James-Lange Theory of Emotion

Hohman’s study of emotions in persons sustaining accidental spinal cord transections
High spinal cord transections produced greater reductions in emotional intensity

Facial feedback


Facial feedback

Ekman asked subjects to move facial muscles so as to create facial expressions that accompany emotions
Different emotional expressions produced different changes in autonomic NS activity:
Anger: increased HR and skin temperature
Fear: increased HR but decreased skin temperature
Happiness: decreased HR, no change in skin temperature