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  Mens Sana Monographs
A Monograph Series Devoted To The Understanding Of Medicine, Mental Health, Man, Mind, Music And Their Matrix
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Year : 2013  |  Volume : 11  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 253-273

What affective neuroscience means for science of consciousness

1 University of Uberlandia (UFU), Institute of Philosophy, Department of Education, Institute of Biosciences, Campus Rubião Jr., ZIP Code 18618-970, Botucatu - São Paulo - Brasil
2 State University of São Paulo (UNESP), Department of Education, Institute of Biosciences, Campus Rubião Jr., ZIP Code 18618-970, Botucatu - São Paulo - Brasil
3 University of Copenhagen, Department of Psychology, Center for Theoretical and Empirical Consciousness Studies, Denmark

Correspondence Address:
Alfredo Pereira
State University of São Paulo (UNESP), Dept. of Education, Institute of Biosciences, Campus Rubião Jr., ZIP Code 18618 - 970, Botucatu - São Paulo - Brasil

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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0973-1229.100409

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The field of affective neuroscience has emerged from the efforts of Jaak Panksepp in the 1990s and reinforced by the work of, among others, Joseph LeDoux in the 2000s. It is based on the ideas that affective processes are supported by brain structures that appeared earlier in the phylogenetic scale (as the periaqueductal gray area), they run in parallel with cognitive processes, and can influence behaviour independently of cognitive judgements. This kind of approach contrasts with the hegemonic concept of conscious processing in cognitive neurosciences, which is based on the identification of brain circuits responsible for the processing of (cognitive) representations. Within cognitive neurosciences, the frontal lobes are assigned the role of coordinators in maintaining affective states and their emotional expressions under cognitive control. An intermediary view is the Damasio-Bechara Somatic Marker model, which puts cognition under partial somatic-affective control. We present here our efforts to make a synthesis of these views, by proposing the existence of two interacting brain circuits; the first one in charge of cognitive processes and the second mediating feelings about cognitive contents. The coupling of the two circuits promotes an endogenous feedback that supports conscious processes. Within this framework, we present the defence that detailed study of both affective and cognitive processes, their interactions, as well of their respective brain networks, is necessary for a science of consciousness.

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