Survival circuits

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Chapter 12 endnote 54, from How Emotions are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain by Lisa Feldman Barrett.
Some context is:

You do have survival circuits for behaviors like the famous “four F’s” (fighting, fleeing, feeding, and mating); they’re controlled by body-budgeting regions in your interoceptive network, and they cause bodily changes that you experience as affect, but they are not dedicated to emotion. [...] Survival circuits are not one-to-one with emotion concepts.

Your brain engages survival circuits whenever it predicts a threat, the need for fuel, the opportunity for sex, or any intake or output of energy to keep you alive and well.[1] However, there is no one-to-one mapping with any emotion concept. For example, when your brain predicts your body should run, it uses these circuits to tell your adrenal glands to release cortisol, your heart rate to increase, your body to sweat, and so on, to make running possible. These physical changes, when represented in the brain, eventually become those affective feelings that are with you every moment of your life, emotional or otherwise (chapter 4). But there is no one-to-one mapping between survival circuits and any human emotion category. People (and rats) run for all kinds of reasons that are not emotional — exercise, competition, or just traveling from here to there. They run during instances of emotion that are not fear and, likewise, make emotions like fear without fleeing (in the face of a threat, they might faint, fight, freeze, or explore.


Notes on the Notes

  1. The term "survival circuit" was recently popularized by the neuroscientist Joe LeDoux.