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Turnbull, O. Baird, J. (2003). Research Digest. Neuropsychoanalysis, 5(2):231-234.

(2003). Neuropsychoanalysis, 5(2):231-234

Research Digest

Oliver Turnbull, Ph.D. and Janet Baird, M.D., Ph.D.

Affect, Empathy, and Self-Awareness

Panskepp, J. (2003). At the interface of the affective, behavioural, and cognitive neurosciences: Decoding the emotional feelings of the brain. Brain and Cognition, 52: 4-14.

This paper is part of a wonderful special issue of Brain and Cognition, which I would highly recommend for those wanting to survey the diversity of opinion among modern neuroscientists on issues of emotion and affect. In this review, Panksepp sets out his views on the question of whether the traditional distinction between emotion and cognition still has heuristic value. For many readers the distinction appears obvious, but there have been many in modern cognitive neuroscience who hold that “the distinction between emotional and cognitive process was counterproductive” (p. 7). Given that the distinction is of central importance to many ideas within psychoanalysis, it is good to see Panksepp outlining the many compelling reasons that support this important dichotomy, such as the link between true emotion and valence/value, the cortical versus subcortical anatomical dissociation, the primacy of affective states in the young, and the preservation of emotional states even after extensive damage to cognitive systems. Panksepp is fighting a battle in which he lies in numerical minority, but in which the big guns of empirical neuroscience appear to support his argument. Given that his position on the importance of emotion in mental life is entirely congruent with central ideas in psychoanalysis, readers are strongly encouraged to read this paper, and related parts of the special issue, to keep abreast of these important issues.

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