Since this is a subject that is highly convoluted (just like the physical brain) and lengthy, we will present an overview of the basic facts about affect and emotional storage in the brain.
We can now go on to looking at the ways in which the brain processes and stores affect memory and emotional encodings by first looking at the physical structure of that part of the brain most implicated in the process of emotional memory .
The AFFECTIVE CENTERS OF THE BRAIN
You, of course, understand that the study of the brain's makeup is vast and complicated, so it’s appropriate to say at this point that our look at the “affect brain complex” is merely summarized on this webpage. Because we are investigating the brain, this does not mean that the role of mind or spirit is lessened, but we are merely having a look at the processing neuro-engineering that allows our lives to be enriched by our minds and our emotional experiences.
The “Affect Neuro-machine.”
Emotional and affect responses stem from storage facilities housed in particular centers of the brain, contained within a part that is called many names:- the limbic brain, the reptilian brain, to name just a couple.
This limbic brain is the centre of our subconscious emotional and affect processing and contains areas that give birth to our emotions, lay down and retrieve our memories, and attend to our survival.
The processes involved in affect memory storage are truly unconscious – that is, that they are below or beyond our capability to consciously understand them. That our emotions and feelings arise from a primal functioning area of our brain whose main, and sometimes only, task is survival.
THE LIMBIC SYSTEM of the brain is made up of many neural centers that go to driving the complex that is responsible for most of our experiences that are not a product of exercising conscious will. Experiences such as the restoration of conscious and episodic memory, and affect or emotional memory and trace-bridging to primal affect encodings (unconscious affect memory retrieval).
THE EMOTION CENTERS. Physiologically, its structures that are important to affect memory are processing centers such as the hippocampus, the hypothalamus and, most importantly, the amygdala. The components of the limbic system are linked and interact in an amazingly complex way, with all its components working together simultaneously. BUT, it’s important to the affectologist to understand that emotionally charged information and material is processed, stored and consolidated initially by the amygdala, a small pair of almond-shaped neural complexes at the anterior aspect of the limbic system.
BEGINNING AFFECT MEMORY
So, let’s now have a peek at the process involved in this storage. I could use any example of an experience at any time early in our lives, and for the sake of this example, let’s not talk about “in the womb” experiences, but use perhaps an early infant experience.
When the young baby receives an emotionally charged stimulus (and this is registered merely as DISCOMFORT), the information is carried instantaneously to the amygdala by various neural pathways. It’s important to say that this information is merely basic – basically uncomfortable, that is – and cannot be processed by the baby in any sophisticatedly analytical way. The amygdala then does its job of storage of that affect memory (in some ways, its ONLY job is the housing of emotional memory).
In the limbic brain, the two most significant bodies in the process of storing memory are the amygdala and its associated center, the hippocampus. The amygdaloid-hippocampal pathway is responsible for overall encoding of data (that we can call memory). The hippocampus records memory of events and objects as facts, while the amygdala assigns emotional content to those facts. While the hippocampus is relatively slow to develop its full capacity to interpret events and episodes – that is, many months – the amygdala is immediately capable (perhaps prenatally) of encoding and storing information about feelings and reactions to those feelings.
I've enlisted the help of a handful of videos presented by two of the world's leading experts on the emotional brain, Dr Joseph LeDoux and Dr Antonio Damasio, both authors of seminal books about the emotional activities in the human brain.
To start with, here is a video presentation from LeDoux, referring to the amygdala:
This below is Antonio Damasio, talking about emotions and feelings in the human brain/mind:
_ Note in LeDoux's video below, he talks about how the accuracy of memories can change over time, "but their strength in terms of your subjective feeling that it was a really powerful experience is there"….
This below is a long presentation by LeDoux, and not for the faint-hearted, but if your interest runs to this sort of detail (as does mine) then it's here for your 'enjoyment'. You can pass over the rather long intro and start at 5:00.
- About This Site
- Black Swans
- Affective Neuroscience
- The Affect Brain
- Perfect Human
- I feel, therefore I am
- The MIND GREMLINS
- The Written Word
- Gentle Healing
- About Ian White
- White as Developer
- Surprise Endings
- Attractor Code
- Hybrid Results
- About Beliefs
- The BLAME GAME
- Getting Ready
- Aims for Change
- Emotional Attitude
- All Our Avatars
- ESR Feedback
- All Subconscious
- Medication Discontinuation
- What's Your Engine 1
- What's Your Engine 2
- What's Your Engine 3
- What's Your Engine 4
- What's Your Engine 5
- Affect Terminology
- The Drug Story
© copyright Ian White 2015