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Science Tuesday – The Origins of Affective Consciousness
May 14 @ 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm
The Origins of Affective Consciousness
For many years psychologists and neuroscientists believed that the cerebral cortex – the outer rim of the brain – creates consciousness. According to this view, affects – emotional feelings – are cognitive concepts. Since only human brains and perhaps the brains of a few other intelligent mammals are able to form concepts, this view maintains that only people and a few other mammals are affective creatures. Modern neuroscience, however, shows that the cerebral cortex does not create affects, which means that affects are not cognitive concepts. What then are affects and which parts of the brain create them? My talk will cite several areas of modern neuroscientific research which indicates that affects are unique consciousness feelings of pleasure and pain. These affective feelings emanate from non-cognitive, sub-cortical brain structures. The brains of all mammals, including the human mammal, contain these subcortical structures. Modern neuroscience therefore demonstrates that all mammals, and probably many other vertebrates are affective creatures.
Lucy Biven trained as a child and adolescent psychotherapist at the Anna Freud Center in London England and was Head of the Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy Department at the Leicestershire NHS in England. She first turned to neuroscience about 25 years ago when working on a custody case that had an unexpectedly good outcome, even though all the psychoanalytic literature predicted otherwise. Neuroscience, rather than psychoanalysis, provided a reason for the happy ending. In 2012, along with Jaak Panksepp, Lucy co-authored “The Archaeology of the Mind.”