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Panksepp, J. (2001). The Long-Term Psychobiological Consequences of Infant Emotions: Prescriptions for the Twenty-First Century. Neuropsychoanalysis, 3(2):149-178.

(2001). Neuropsychoanalysis, 3(2):149-178

The Long-Term Psychobiological Consequences of Infant Emotions: Prescriptions for the Twenty-First Century

Jaak Panksepp

Some of the personality characteristics of infants emerge from the positive and negative interactions of their brains' emotional strengths with world events. Positive emotional systems appear to operate as attractors that capture cognitive spaces, leading to their broadening, cultivation, and development.

Negative emotions tend to constrain cognitive activities to more narrow and obsessive channels. One aim of healthy development is to generate harmonious, well-integrated layers of emotional and higher mental processes, as opposed to conflicts between emotional and cognitive experiences. To understand such processes scientifically, we need to conceptualize the deep nature of the emotional brain and the psychiatric difficulties that can emerge from underlying imbalances. Obviously, one has to view the infant as a coherent entity rather than a conglomeration of neurological parts—but a scientific understanding of how their fundamental brain emotional systems may operate (based on the detailed neurobehavioral study of other mammals), may provide new ways to conceptualize how different social environments may modify those paths. Herein, I will highlight areas of research we might cultivate to promote a deeper understanding of key neurodevelopmental issues. The basic premise is that with the emergence of habitual capacities to project their emotions into the world, infants gradually come to see their environments as fundamentally friendly places or uncaring and threatening ones. A great deal of this presumably emerges from brain systems that control sadness and joy. Those brain processes, along with developmental implications, are discussed in some detail.

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