Neuroscientific approach to emotions and feelings: the last frontier of the new millennium.

Abstract

For centuries, emotions and feelings have been considered a domain of poets, writers, novelists, or psychologists who have tried to explore their secretive natures. They have been debating the crucial question of what they are, without providing any exhaustive answer except magnificent descriptions of them or sophisticated psychodynamic interpretations. However, the explosion of neuroscience that has occurred in the last decades has provoked a real revolution and reshaping of previous knowledge. In addition, the increasing amount of data that are accumulating permits nowadays a detailed description, in molecular terms, of some brain processes in both physiological and pathological conditions. We do not know as yet how the brain produces the mind, but we cannot disregard anymore that the mind is a product of the brain. Following this line of thought, emotions and feelings, such as attachment, pair and parental bonding, boredom, shyness and even love, typical of higher mammals and neglected for centuries by experimental sciences, have become the topic of extensive neuroscientific research in order to elucidate their biological mechanisms. This is in spite of the fact that there exist as yet concrete problems for research in this field. First, scientific methods often appear inappropriate to explore the personal characteristics of emotions that always show peculiarities linked to the particular individual, and no standardized method is adequate to cover the range of the multiple expressions of them. Secondly, some feelings, such as love, seem to have no correpondent models in animals that are of valuable help in several cases. Because of these biases, perhaps, research in this area has been mainly neglected; however, we cannot disregard also the skepticism and the meager interest in investigating "feelings" rather than "real disorders." For a long time, in fact, feelings have not been considered worthy enough as topics of experimental science and, therefore, their intimate nature has never been investigated rigorously. However, we are of the opinion that it is now time to move ahead. We can easily predict that in the future we shall be able to unravel how the brain functions and dysfunctions and how emotions and feelings emerge from its activity, without disregarding the role of cultural and enviromental factors that probably are more involved in shaping rather than in determining them. This issue of CNS Spectnims aims to present an overview of the latest research on the psychobiological mechanisms regulating some emotions and feelings. Domenico Canele, MD, and Stephanie Pistoia, MD, write about the neuroendocrine control of libido, a drive which is essential for the species survival. Boredom is the topic of Carlo Maggini's, MD, paper, which presents the current hypotheses on the pathophysiology of this feeling, while Stefano Pallanti, MD, and Leonardo Quercioli, MD, present an extensive review on shame from physiology to pathology. The paper of Silvana Galderisi, MD, PhD, and Armida Mucci, MD, PhD, is focused on emotional reactivity and on how it can be linked to vulnerability towards psychopathology. Obviously, the topics are limited due to the physical constraints of the journal, but we want to stress the need for further reflection and research in this area that, according to us, represents the real challenge for neuroscience in the third millennium. In addition, we strongly believe that the identification of the neural substrates of human feelings and emotions might represent the glue to reconcile psychology and psychiatry, both with the same basis in the human

Cite this paper

@article{Marazziti2000NeuroscientificAT, title={Neuroscientific approach to emotions and feelings: the last frontier of the new millennium.}, author={Donatella Marazziti}, journal={CNS spectrums}, year={2000}, volume={5 8}, pages={18} }