Affective Neuroscience: A Deep Dive with Jeffrey Burgdorf and Brian Knutson
Presentations from two of Jaak Panksepp's long-time collaborators
Toward a Deep Science of Affect, Motivation, and Choice
Although traditionally considered separately, some of the earliest behavioral science accounts implied links between affect, motivation, and choice. To examine these links, “deep science” frameworks that seek to explicitly connect levels of analysis may complement more popular “broad science” approaches that seek to more exhaustively characterize a single level of analysis (e.g., at the circuit, experiential, or behavioral levels). We propose a “deep science” approach capable of linking neural, affective, and motivational levels of analysis. Recent neuroimaging research has linked neural activity to anticipatory affective experience (i.e., in the nucleus accumbens [NAcc] to positive arousal and in the anterior insula [AIns] to general or negative arousal). Activity in circuits implicated in anticipatory affect further predicts motivated behavior in diverse scenarios (with NAcc activity predicting approach and AIns activity predicting avoidance). Future research promises to forge more extended links from lower levels of analysis related to neurochemistry (e.g., release of dopamine and norepinephrine in target regions), as well as to higher levels of analysis related to aggregate choice (e.g., increases versus decreases in market demand). Innovation of new methods with matching resolution has enabled researchers to link previously disparate levels of analysis, which may most rapidly yield applications capable of improving health and welfare.
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Brian Knutson is currently a Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at Stanford University and directs the Symbiotic Project on Affective Neuroscience and codirects the Neurochoice Initiative. He received bachelors degrees in psychology and comparative religion from Trinity University (San Antonio, TX); a doctorate in psychology from Stanford University (Stanford CA); and did postdoctoral research in affective neuroscience at UCSF Medical School (San Francisco, CA) and the National Institute of Health (Bethesda, MD). His laboratory uses multiple methods (psychometrics, psychophysiology, brain imaging, and pharmacology) to investigate neural mechanisms that underlie emotional experience, and explores implications of this work for clinical disorders of affect and addiction, as well as for economic decision-making. Knutson has received Young Investigator awards from the American Psychiatric Association, the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression, and the Academy of Behavioral Medicine Research. He is a fellow of the American Psychological Society and Academy of Behavioral Medicine Research. His research is funded by grants from several organizations including the National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation. He has been invited to speak about his research in psychology, psychiatry, neuroscience, economics, finance, and marketing departments around the world. His laboratory’s research is regularly featured in top journals and popular media outlets. (More information and publications can be found here).
Using Rat Ultrasonic Vocalization to Study the Neurobiology of Emotion: From Basic Science to the Development of Novel Therapeutics for Affective Disorders
The use of ultrasonic vocalizations as an experimental tool for studying emotional states in rodents has led to an increased understanding of the basic science of affect as well as the development of novel diagnostics and therapeutics for the treatment of affective disorders. At the behavioral level, the rules that govern the generation of affective ‘feeling’ states are similar to those of the psychophysics of sensory perception. Emotions are elicited primarily in response to active social stimuli. A linear increase in affective response requires a logarithmic increase in stimulation and habituation of a given affective response allows for transition across the cycle of emotional/affective states (approach→consummatory phase→avoidance). At the neuronal level, the coordinated expression of affective responses in the medial prefrontal cortex is orchestrated by rhythmic activity, which is initiated and maintained by a variety of short-term and long-term synaptic plasticity processes. An objective measure of affective states may emerge from these psychophysical and neuronal properties of emotion. Enhancing synaptic plasticity with pharmacological agents that modulate NMDA receptor activity as well as IGFI receptor activity may have therapeutic potential for the treatment of affective disorders.
Please click here for some background reading.
Dr. Burgdorf is a research associate professor at Northwestern University and the associate director of the Falk center for Molecular Therapeutics at Northwestern. He is interested in how the brain generates emotion and how this knowledge can be used to create better therapeutics for mood disorders. As a student of Jaak Panksepp, he was involved in the discovery of rat laughter, and using this model has discovered the novel biochemistry of positive affect which has led to the development of novel therapeutics for mood disorders. More recently, he has applied the science of emotion to the development of objective measures suitable for the diagnosis and treatment of mood disorders. He also believes that a scientist can learn just as much about how the brain generates emotion for a good opera or novel as from a scientific journal article.
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