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Encephalon 16 is out February 12, 2007

Posted by Johan in Neuroscience, Social Neuroscience.
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Over at Mind Hacks. It’s a good one!

I was particularly impressed by a post on emotion and decision-making from Memoirs of a Postgrad. Paul Baxter outlines Damasio’s Somatic Markers Hypothesis, as described in a review by Bechara et al. At the core of this hypothesis (it’s more of a theory, really) is the notion that emotion is central to decision-making. Thus, even though we subjectively experience the decision-making process as rational and detached, we are to some extent going to be governed by emotional responses to the available courses of action. Damasio finds evidence for this primarily in studies on patients who have suffered lesions to the amygdala, thought to play a central role in emotion regulation, particularly of fear. Aside from the usual symptoms of amygdala lesions (e.g., no skin conductance response to a stimulus that is repeatedly paired with electric shocks, no attempts to escape or otherwise avoid unpleasant situations), Damasio points out that his patients are unable to make even the most basic decisions for themselves.

Baxter’s article linked on to a post on the limits of rational thought at Neurontic, which expands on the Somatic Markers Hypothesis.

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