Affective Neuroscience - Dr Panksepp

Biomiast

Jedi Master
Hi Obyvatel,

You have made a great compilation in this thread, combining esoteric concepts and neuroscience. I haven't finished reading everything, but I listened to the podcast and got the basic idea.

Recently, I finished In An Unspoken Voice, and it was an amazing experience, it opened so many doors to my thinking. During that time, I assumed that System 1 is actually energies stored in the body, not brain. However, Panksepp's research is more comprehensive in locating System 1.

Yet, there is something that bothers me, and it would be great if you can share your perspective. In the Depression as a Stepping Stone thread, we have this concept of keeping the energy below the neck to prevent the program's overtaking your thinking. It is remarkably similar to Levine's approach, so I experimented with it a bit. Levine also describes his dog's chasing behaviour and how it is impossible to stop it once it starts.

During my experiments, I sensed that eventhough the thought of the behaviour originated in the brain, there is something in the body that amplifies it for the lack of a better term. You can feel the rush of chemicals/energies coming from your gut or stomach and how they take over the brain. This contrasts with Panksepp's view of subcortical regions directly effecting cortex.

It seems to me there is a bodily component to it as Levine describes, but I am not able to articulate any theory about it. One significant thing Levine said about vagus nerve that stuck with me was, %10 of the neurons goes from brain to body and %90 goes from body to brain. So, brain receives huge input from body and I wonder if it is related to these energies you can feel and what is their role in taking control of your brain. Also, esoterically, how it applies to chakras might be an interesting question.

Since Levine's work is about facing the trauma without thinking about it, just using your bodily feelings, and activating the vagus nerve, I figured as soon as I feel an arousal, be it fear, lust or anger, I can keep it "below the neck" and do pipe breathing to bring my body to its resting state. Theoretically, this would stop the program before it started.

I did this 3 times for the arousals I listed above when they arise. I may be wrong on this, but for all of them, it reduced the power of the program. This is just a recent experiment and I need more time to check whether it works or whether it is applicable to other programs. It seems that the feelings of the program do not disappear, but the power it holds them over you, their ability to overcome you is reduced. In the mean time, I am aware that the issue is not solved or it makes every problem disappear, but it prevents you from being overwhelmed, at least that is how I feel about it.

What do you think? Am I chasing ghosts or taking the heat away when I shouldn't or shoving it under the rug?

My two cents, fwiw.
 

Laura

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I think that people who have "programmed fears" that morph into jealousy can, in certain instances and with a close relationship, confess that they felt jealous and thereby obtain reassurances that they are not in danger of losing the relationship. It seems to me that, after a few times of expressing what kinds of programs were running along this line, talking it through, seeing that it was, in fact, just a program, eventually such fears would fade away.
 

obyvatel

The Living Force
Biomiast said:
Recently, I finished In An Unspoken Voice, and it was an amazing experience, it opened so many doors to my thinking. During that time, I assumed that System 1 is actually energies stored in the body, not brain. However, Panksepp's research is more comprehensive in locating System 1.

I do not think Panksepp's work defines the physical location of the so-called system1. It identifies sub-cortical brain structures which are involved in the processing of affective information. The human organism is a complex system made up of interdependent parts which are tightly coupled to one another. In the context of affective information processing, hormones, neurotransmitters and peptides are thought to carry out the process at the cellular level. Candace Pert's research (discussed briefly here ) shows that such informational substances are in operation throughout the body indicating a highly distributed system of which the brain forms a part.


[quote author=Biomiast]
During my experiments, I sensed that eventhough the thought of the behaviour originated in the brain, there is something in the body that amplifies it for the lack of a better term. You can feel the rush of chemicals/energies coming from your gut or stomach and how they take over the brain. This contrasts with Panksepp's view of subcortical regions directly effecting cortex.
[/quote]

The brain responds to the state of the sensory system of the body. The brain gets its input from external sense organs as well as the interoceptors (internal receptors) located in various organs of the body like the heart, stomach, liver and other organs for sensing internal conditions of the body. The information from different parts of the body then get processed sub-cortically and/or cortically in the brain and the results of that processing affects the body states which in turn again affects the new information fed back to the brain in a continuous feedback loop. Certain body states lead to predominant sub-cortical processing in the brain with the frontal cortex often playing second fiddle - and these affective states are identified in Panksepp's work - osit.

[quote author=Biomiast]
It seems to me there is a bodily component to it as Levine describes, but I am not able to articulate any theory about it. One significant thing Levine said about vagus nerve that stuck with me was, %10 of the neurons goes from brain to body and %90 goes from body to brain. So, brain receives huge input from body and I wonder if it is related to these energies you can feel and what is their role in taking control of your brain. Also, esoterically, how it applies to chakras might be an interesting question.

Since Levine's work is about facing the trauma without thinking about it, just using your bodily feelings, and activating the vagus nerve, I figured as soon as I feel an arousal, be it fear, lust or anger, I can keep it "below the neck" and do pipe breathing to bring my body to its resting state. Theoretically, this would stop the program before it started.

I did this 3 times for the arousals I listed above when they arise. I may be wrong on this, but for all of them, it reduced the power of the program. This is just a recent experiment and I need more time to check whether it works or whether it is applicable to other programs. It seems that the feelings of the program do not disappear, but the power it holds them over you, their ability to overcome you is reduced. In the mean time, I am aware that the issue is not solved or it makes every problem disappear, but it prevents you from being overwhelmed, at least that is how I feel about it.

[/quote]

Considering the model of a complex distributed interdependent system for the human organism, we can qualitatively analyze what may be going on. When the body state (as sensed through the external and internal receptors) and the brain state (as a result of sub-cortical and/or cortical processing) tend to reinforce each other (positive feedback loop), then the whole system tends to move towards certain state. Such state(s) towards which a complex non-linear system tends to move more often given some triggers (analogous to initial conditions in non-linear dynamics) can be perhaps loosely referred to as "attractors" (analogous to equilibrium solutions in non-linear dynamics). In the example of trauma, we tend to mis-interpret stimuli and get into a traumatized state quite readily given certain triggers. The traumatic state can act as an "attractor" for our system and we may tend to fall into such a state quite readily. Another way to think about it is imagine a ball being rolled into a field with many pot-holes of varying depth and size. Bigger the hole , greater is its "basin of attraction", and more likely the ball will fall into it. Deeper the hole, more difficult for the ball to get out.

To prevent "falling into the hole", it may be necessary to either decouple some elements of the system or turn the positive feedback into negative feedback. This is analogous to increasing the freedom of the system to arrive at different outcomes than the usual "holes". Levine talks about uncoupling sensation from feeling in order to prevent being carried away by the traumatic state. "Keeping it below the neck" is a way of keeping the thinking free from the raging instinctive emotions from running the show. In both these cases, if sensation or thinking is not decoupled from feeling, a self-reinforcing or positive feedback loop is formed which would take one towards the "hole". Gurdjieff's prescription of "opposing the body", "doing what it does not like" or "creating the struggle between yes and no" could be interpreted as creating a negative feedback loop - like a thermostat turning off the heater if the temperature goes too high.

This appears to align with Dabrowski's model of positive disintegration as well. We start from a state of "primary integration" where we are comfortably placed in our respective "holes" formed by habits and life experiences. To develop, we need to dismantle the existing structure and give the system freedom to grow differently - thus going through a period of disintegration (or uncoupling) characterized by internal opposition (or negative feedback) - like feeling doubt and dissatisfaction at our existing condition. If the process continues appropriately, then we can again re-integrate at a higher level where our thoughts and feelings become self-reinforcing (positive feedback) again - only organized under the influence of something higher.

Hope this makes sense - fwiw.
 

Biomiast

Jedi Master
It makes perfect sense. Thanks a lot for explaining. I think I have seen enough examples of this positive feedback loop between body and mind influencing moods or thoughts.

Interestingly, both Gurdjieff and Levine talks about certain postures influencing the programmed behavior of human machine. Levine also gives example of smiling without any cause or reason actually makes you happy, produces happy mood.

What is also intersting to me is, some receptors in the body(i.e. serotonin 2b) are only expressed in the gut and specialized neurons like Von Economo Neurons. This hints to a relationship between two regions of the body(gut and brain), and if there is a resonance between the same receptors and they can communicate directly with each other in the body, whatever is in your gut will also affect your Von Economo Neurons.

http://cassiopaea.org/forum/index.php/topic,16266.msg139112.html#msg139112
 

Psalehesost

The Living Force
Some things from The Archaeology of Mind (Panksepp's newer book on affective neuroscience) that I'll summarize (and slightly extrapolate from, taking into account other information) - I think it can have practical value for people struggling with themselves; it has had and still has for me:

Panksepp mentions adjunctive behaviors - when a situation activates the SEEKING system but meaningful action cannot be taken, a substitute action is taken - it can be related in context, or a completely irrelevant activity. This makes one feel more of an effective agent in the world, hence better.

In general, SEEKING arousal has this effect of making one feel more of an effective agent - and anything that one seeks to avoid (consciously or otherwise) tends to activate the SEEKING system, so as to motivate a solution.

The greater the strain - unless hopelessness and depression sets in - the greater the activation of the SEEKING system, and the greater its hold on behavior. Without activation, there is depression and lethargy and an absense of perceived meaning; with activation, the stronger it is, the stronger is the tendency to see relationships and meanings in things - which, at an extreme level of activation, gives rise to psychosis. And I think that conditions giving rise to very strong activation without going into that extreme nevertheless can increase the tendency to form false beliefs, as the brain becomes readier to see relationships and perceive meanings.

If correlations (no matter how accidental and objectively meaningless) occur between a behavior (including adjunctive behaviors) and a good outcome, then the result is what is called autoshaping - basically, the brain learns the connection (real or illusory), and the behavior can turn into a ritual.

On the collective scale, this can give rise to cultural beliefs and habits, including but not limited to superstitions and accompanying rituals.

On the individual scale, this can affect a person under psychological strain. It can result in all manner of meaningless coping mechanisms forming and becoming ingrained. For me, it was sensing "energy" and concerns and inner and outer actions connected to this. Probably all manner of compulsive habits connected to perceived relationships can arise in this way.

Finally, some perspective on a narcissistic behavior is given in the book: Grandiose dreams of success, achievement, positive regard, and so forth, provide a dopamine rush and are thus addictive. Narcissists (and narcissistically wounded people engaging in such behavior) are hard to treat in part because they are essentially addicts. (Panksepp actually suggests that mild doses of antipsychotic medication - which reduce dopamine activity - might help narcissists who otherwise remain stuck in their thought patterns and attitudes to think and evaluate differently. I think a low, almost depressive mood - which curtails SEEKING, but does not shut it down entirely - without defenses activating, or at any rate being able to provide the "hit", might provide similar opportunity.)
 
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