The Emotional Brain: The Mysterious Underpinnings of Emotional Life

Overview

What happens in our brains to make us feel fear, love, hate, anger, joy? Do we control our emotions, or do they control us? Do animals have emotions? How can traumatic experiences in early childhood influence adult behavior, even though we have no conscious memory of them? In The Emotional Brain, Joseph LeDoux investigates the origins of human emotions and explains that many exist as part of complex neural systems that evolved to enable us to survive.

One of the principal ...

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Overview

What happens in our brains to make us feel fear, love, hate, anger, joy? Do we control our emotions, or do they control us? Do animals have emotions? How can traumatic experiences in early childhood influence adult behavior, even though we have no conscious memory of them? In The Emotional Brain, Joseph LeDoux investigates the origins of human emotions and explains that many exist as part of complex neural systems that evolved to enable us to survive.

One of the principal researchers profiled in Daniel Goleman's Emotional Intelligence, LeDoux is a leading authority in the field of neural science. In this provocative book, he explores the brain mechanisms underlying our emotions — mechanisms that are only now being revealed.

"...written by one of the principal researchers profiled in Daniel Goleman's Emotional Intelligence...explores how emotions form."

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Joseph LeDoux is a superb guide to that ultimate frontier in understanding our emotional life, the brain."
— Daniel Goldman, author of Emotional Intelligence

"The Emotional Brain is an excellent introduction to the strange history of the neurobiology of emotion and a preview of what lies ahead."
— Antonio R. Damasio, Scientific American

"Engrossing and engaging..."
— Richard Restak, The New York Times Book Review

"Highly accessible...LeDoux's musical and literary references reveal a man clearly in touch with his own emotional feelings. All said, The Emotional Brain is a stimulating and thoughtful work and is essential reading for any serious student of human emotion."
— Raymond J. Dolan, Nature

"[The Emotional Brain] is vivid and convincing in its description of the central mechanisms of emotion, and is directly applicable to understanding anxiety, the most common ingredient of emotional disorders. It's a terrifically good book."
— Keith Oatley, New Scientist

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Brain researcher LeDoux believes that emotions evolved from bodily and behavioral responses controlled by the brain as a means to help our remote ancestors survive a hostile environment. The emotional states we subjectively experience, in this theory, are the end result of information processing that occurs unconsciously as the brain decodes the significance of stimuli in order to shape appropriate behavior. In this intriguing report, LeDoux, a professor at New York University, draws heavily on his own research into the brain's "fear system," which suggests that unconscious fear-related memories imprinted on the brain can result in deep-rooted neurotic anxiety, phobias, panic attacks or obsessive-compulsive disorders. He also reviews studies indicating that multiple memory systems exist in the brain, including one for "emotional memories," which helps to explain the course of Alzheimer's disease as well as adults' inability to remember early childhood experiences. Research cited here suggests that behavior therapy may actually rewire the brain's pathways. LeDoux's lively, heavily annotated text is amplified by numerous photos and drawings. Newbridge Library of Science main selection. (Nov.)
Library Journal
What happens neurologically within the brain during an emotional experience is extremely complex and difficult to study. LeDoux, a researcher at New York University's Center for Neural Science who was profiled in Daniel Goleman's Emotional Intelligence (LJ 9/1/95), belongs to a cadre of scientists attempting to understand how emotions occur by studying brain biology and mechanisms. In examining the linkages among external stimuli, cortical events, and conscious feelings, LeDoux argues that evolution has provided us with these capabilities to enhance our chances for survival. The primary research cited here is challenging, and in places the text bogs down. Other recent books (e.g., Antonio Damasio's Descartes' Error, LJ 8/94) give a better introduction to the subject, but LeDoux's is the most focused and comprehensive. Despite the author's often emotionless style, this book contains some fascinating information. For both public and academic libraries.-Gregg Sapp, Univ. of Miami Lib., Coral Gables, Fla.
School Library Journal
Drawing from the work of many past and current researchers, LeDoux offers students an opportunity to become acquainted with research on behavior as it has evolved. His book is a chronicle of thought on the nature of brain function and the most human of attributes, emotion. It is grounded in excellent scholarship and analysis while affording readers freedom from overly technical jargon. For AP psychology and biology students, this book might be used to plan original research experiments and to give background for a more in-depth view of physiological and behavioral factors. A book that will give readers a better understanding of the basis and motivating quality of emotions.Nancy Craig, R. E. Lee High School, Springfield, VA
Kirkus Reviews
A lucid, accessible explanation of what recent research on the brain has revealed about the nature and origins of emotion.

LeDoux, a researcher at New York University's Center for Neural Science, has been studying the neurological basis of emotions since the 1970s. He views emotions as biological functions of the nervous system and believes that studying how emotions are represented in the brain can lead to knowledge not possible through psychological experimentation alone. He opens by recounting the work previously done by cognitive scientists, pointing out its shortcomings with regard to emotional process. Contrary to earlier theorists, he asserts that "there is no such thing as the `emotion' faculty and there is no single brain system dedicated to this phantom function." Rather, there are numerous systems, each having evolved for different functional purposes (from defense to procreation) and giving rise to different kinds of emotions. Noting that each must be studied individually, the author has concentrated on the basic emotion of fear and, through the study of fear conditioning in rats, has mapped out in detail the brain mechanisms that underlie fear reactions. To those skeptical about the relevance of such research for human beings, LeDoux argues persuasively that these basic brain mechanisms are essentially the same across species. Especially interesting are his explanations of the different kinds of memory and his discussions of anxiety disorders as functional disorders of the brain's fear system. LeDoux nearly always succeeds in translating the technospeak of neuroscience into ordinary English, but just in case, in the trickier sections he has provided line drawings that help the general reader follow along with relative ease.

After reading this instructive and engaging book, those whose neurological vocabulary stopped with "gray matter" will find themselves conversing confidently about the amygdala, the hippocampus, and the cerebral cortex.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780684836591
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 3/27/1998
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 250,950
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Joseph LeDoux is the Henry and Lucy Moses Professor of Science in the Center for Neural Science at New York University. He has been awarded both a Merit Award and a Research Scientist Development Award from the National Institute of Mental Health, as well as grants from the National Science Foundation and the American Heart Association. He lives in New York City.

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