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Neurohacking - Tutorials
Written by NHA   
Friday, 20 July 2012 21:37
Article Index
Neurohacking Tutorial 9 - Emotional Stability & Unconscious Mind
Structure, Function and Behavior
From Automation to Autonomy
What Happens If Things Go Wrong?
The Unconscious Mind
NHA Guide To Methods and Technology
Getting Into The Garden
The Most Important Bits to Remember
Hacks and Exercices
Notes, References and Answers
All Pages




Structure, Function and Behavior


Motivation & Emotion

Definition: 'Motivation' means 'stimulation towards movement & behavior', and in neuroscience it refers to a particular set of brain processes underlying the control of behavior.[67] These processes are responsible for the selection of one particular (relevant) behavior from a set of several (possible) behaviors, and for giving energy, duration (persistence through time) and direction to that behavior.

The concept of motivation is applied both to behavior that results in getting something (such as food and water) and to behavior that results in avoiding something (such as a bush fire or a predator).

We know from experience that motivation does not need emotion in order to be effective in promoting survival, because we all have some hardwired automatically-motivating biological drives, like hunger, thirst and fatigue. All creatures from the simplest life forms are motivated by hunger to ingest food, by dehydration to ingest liquids, by fatigue to sleep, and by a full bladder empty it, without any emotion involved whatsoever. They can even be motivated to run away automatically if suddenly attacked, still with no necessity for emotion. Even plants are motivated to turn towards light.

Looking at motivation in its literal sense enables us to see the common features underlying the organization and control of what may seem on the surface diverse animal behaviors. The concrete processes that maintain internal homeostasis use 'drives' such as hunger or sex to motivate behavioral changes, signaling with neurotransmitters and hormones to muscles and bones that control external behavior just as they do to organs and systems that control internal behavior. All behavior is motion, and motivation means 'to move; to set into motion'. It's automatic.

An obvious example of automatic processes at work is that of dehydration. Loss of body water triggers both internal body changes and external behavior changes in response to the drive to relieve thirst; prompting motivation to seek and ingest fluids and, subsequently, correction of dehydration.

Maintaining internal homeostasis needs automatic behavioral control, as events within the body are always related to energy levels, and the organization of behavior directed towards the gain of nourishment is all about taking more in than you need to give out, in any given time.

Energy-economy and ergonomics of behavior matter a great deal to biology, and it insists on putting all of its potential wherever the greatest energy-gain lies, as it has done with great success for billions of years. Motivation, initially, is triggered by discomfort. A creature is not satisfied with the way things are, for example being hungry, and wants to change them, so it gets up and does some eating behavior. Automatic behaviors like this are instincts prompted by biological drives, and they don't need conscious thought or emotion in order to work.

As organisms become more complex, conscious awareness develops as congruous with unconscious motivation. As creatures associate tastes and textures and smells etc with nice or nasty, and their database of associations (memory) grows, they begin unconsciously to perceive the patterns of what things to collect and what not to, places where they can get what they want and avoid what they don't; and autonomy of choice is born. Conscious information is added to and augments unconscious information. 'Helpful to me' becomes 'nice' and 'harmful to me' becomes 'nasty'.

We know that there are different types of pleasure and pain in all areas of life for all senses (too hot, too cold, warm and furry, too sharp, smells great, feels good, too much dinner). Pain comes when we don't get what we need (not enough food or water), and we very quickly associate getting what we need with comfort and not getting it with discomfort. We LIKE comfort. We don't like discomfort. 

The neurological correlates of motivation are known to neuroscience, and one of the pathways known to employ dopamine is the key to understanding motivation.



This is the 'mesolimbic' dopamine pathway, which originates in N2's ventral tegmental area (VTA) and connects to a number of regions in N3 and N6, such as the nucleus accumbens, (N.acc.) the Amygdala (Amy) and the prefrontal and frontal cortex. The activity of this pathway is fundamental to the 'seeking' behavior involved in much motivation, regardless of which drive, motivation or behavior we consider.


The Amygdala & emotional weighting

When we recall a memory, it stimulates our mind and body to reproduce an echo or 'mirroring' of the hormonal state that went with the original event, and that’s the reason why we still feel excited when we remember exciting events of the past, and get that sudden warm happy feeling once again when we remember someone we love.

The ability to associate, learn and remember things is also the reason our ancestors didn't get eaten, giving us the opportunity to be here reading this now. Neurochemistry is the link between the physical matter of neurons and the electro-chemical signaling that all thought including learning triggers. Neurochemicals themselves are still physical molecules of course, but in neurotransmission we are seeing the interaction of matter and energy as surely as we do in a battery.

The Amys live in N3 in the medial temporal lobes and are below viewed from underneath the brain with the front facing upwards.



The amys are hardwired in to the mesolimbic dopamine system comtrolling motivation. They have a wide range of connections with other brain regions, allowing them to modulate a wide variety of behavioral functions. Some of the amys' major connections are shown below.



Some of the major input and output connections of the Amygdala. Sensory abbreviations: aud = auditory; vis = visual; somato = somatosensory;

gust = gustatory (taste); olf = olfactory.Modulatory arousal systems abbreviations: NE = norepinephrine; DA = dopamine; ACh = acetylcholine; 5HT, = serotonin.

NOTE: There is no need to remember all the names of these areas; we'd just like you to see how busy the Amy is. If you're wondering why the diagram shows stress hormones but not relaxation hormones, we are taking it for granted that our 'resting state' is, unsurprisingly, that of resting (& relaxation). We (should) default to this state whenever we need to, automatically.


One of the Amy's tasks is to determine what's beneficial or harmful and select the appropriate chemistry to promote the most appropriate behavior set when encountering either.

During emotional episodes, physiological and behavioral responses are triggered by activity in N3, and the Amygdala in particular. As you can see, the Amy is richly interconnected with other brain areas, and different aspects of the same behavior are often localized in different regions ('nuclei') of the Amygdala.

Most of the inputs to the Amygdala involve excitatory pathways that use glutamate as a transmitter. These inputs form synaptic connections on the dendrites of main excitatory neurons that transmit signals to other regions or subregions of the Amygdala, or to extrinsic regions. In addition, some of the excitatory inputs to the Amygdala terminate on local inhibitory interneurons that in turn connect with principal neurons, giving rise to feedforward inhibition.

The flow of information through Amygdala circuits themselves is also modulated by a variety of neurotransmitter systems. Thus, norepinephrine, dopamine, serotonin, and acetylcholine released in the Amygdala, as well as the balance of glutamate and its inhibitor GABA, influences how excitatory and inhibitory neurons interact.

Receptors for these various neuromodulators and the hormones they trigger are differentially distributed in the various Amygdala nuclei. Numerous peptide receptors are also present in the Amygdala, including receptors for opioids, oxytocin, vasopressin, corticotropin releasing factor, and neuropeptide Y. [5]

Neural energy transfer to and from N3 occurs in patterns that we can scan and observe to be constantly changing yet with certain regularities and repetitions. As input fires off neurons at different coordinates on the internal grid, the overall firing patterns across the grid dictates what patterns (percepts) the Amy recieves and consequently what concept-associations are triggered by those patterns in N3. All patterns have their associated weighting, and a big part of 'final weighting' is the Amy’s assessment of a pattern as being associated with ‘nasty or nice’, ‘danger or benefit’, ‘friend or foe’.

In final weighting the Amy has only three choices: ‘good news’, ‘bad news’, or ‘ignore’, triggered by and triggering different patterns. If some input pattern is to be ignored (for example because it is known, mundane, and unimportant like the ticking of a clock,) the Amy gives it no weighting at all and effectively treats it as though it doesn’t exist.

In motivation terms this indicates 'no behavior necessary'. The nature of all other input percepts is judged from the density and power of its patterns, and what coordinates of the inner model (and hence what concepts) they associate with. If association is congruous, the Amy will automatically 'know' which patterns are bad news and which are good.

There is no conscious knowledge here because in both advantages and dangers throughout our evolution there wasn't time to stand around deciding whether or not some shadow really might be a tiger, or whether that sexy cave dweller next door really was giving you the eye. For the Amy on its own there is just simple, automated, input -->response.

As we learned in previous tutorials, all our incoming percepts are scanned at first for comparison with ‘emergency’ patterns, then for what they have in common with the rest of the concepts in our database (what’s already known), and then for comparison with predicted patterns. As data in an ongoing process, they are constantly modulated by any new information.

‘Emergency’ patterns are easily recognized as anything outside the 'green zone' parameters for life and wellbeing; those that cause sensory overload. Since ‘sensory overload’ includes everything from pain to imminent death, they conform to ‘danger’ concepts in the inner model and thus motivate immediate reflexive responses to protect the organism; usually rapid withdrawal or protection (behaviorally, fight, flee, hide or freeze). This prompts sudden movement away from or towards, or sudden cessation of movement (for example when freezing or employing camoflage) in order to overcome it.

Nine times out of ten the response will be either freezing or fast movement away from; because we are ultimately energy-conscious systems and biology doesn't waste precious energy resources on fighting unless it really has to.

Loud noises, sudden motion towards us, sudden changes in light or darkness or temperature, and certain frequencies of color, sound or odor are all likely to cause an emergency response. Reflexes such as blinking to avoid items entering the eye or sneezing to eject dust use exactly the same system -automatic behaviors have evolved to defend us. In groups, automatic responses can trigger useful group activity via quorum sensing and (in more complex animals) also by alarm warnings in body language, facial expressions, and vocalization.

Without control, though, quorum sensing can pull us around with neurotransmitters and hormones and may cause some unfortunate automatic behaviors. Sensitive individuals who vomit when they smell someone else's barf or faint when someone else bleeds are well aware of how automatic these responses can be, (although our susceptibility to this also depends on our focus of attention and empathy in modeling). People with strong rear nets and good empathy but a weak network 4 often suffer such indignities.

If you doubt the efficacy of empathic modeling in quorum sensing, yawn on public transport. Score one point for everybody who joins in, then consider than none of them yawned because they personally were tired. Yawns are even transferable across species.[66]

So much for emergencies, which after all should not constitute most of our experience. All other patterns that are not 'ignorable' prompt the release of chemical cascades throughout the brain and body that motivate and modulate the type of behavior that seems required in each situation.

The role of the Amy in all this is simply recognition and response. Using random example numbers for demonstration here, it works like this:


Density / Power of Input Signals

    NOT ENOUGH                                                                        JUST RIGHT                                                                             TOO MUCH

IF n = < 100

IF n = 100-1000

IF n = >1000

THEN attach copy of patterns for chemical set A to data & forward

THEN attach copy of patterns for chemical set B to data & forward

THEN attach copy of patterns for chemical set C to data & forward

The Amy has no idea that the pattern for 'chemical set A', when read by its data recipients, will result in the release of dopamine up the mesolimbic pathway and result in behavioral motivation to do something, nor does it know that this happened because the organism was in an empoverished environment, input was too low and intelligence got bored. We just get up and automatically go looking for something more interesting and beneficial to do or somewhere more interesting and beneficial to be.

Both conditioned stimuli and emotional faces (expressions) produce strong Amygdala activation when presented unconsciously, emphasizing the importance of the Amygdala as an implicit information processor and its role in unconscious memory. But the Amygdala can't think, "Oooh! Shitshitshit!!!" when an 'angry face' pattern happens; it can't even think "if density or power n = >1000 then copy these patterns"; it can't THINK anything in words. It is like the dude in Turing's Chinese Room handing out preset responses (concepts) in response to input data (percepts) automatically without any understanding of what is going on and why.

The Amy, we feel, has had unfair bad press. It is not, as is commonly claimed, "the seat of fear" or "the cause of emotions". Many brain parts must work together in synchrony for emotion (or sentiment) to emerge as a result of complex chemistry involving many networks and variables of memory, association and experience. The Amygdala's task is just to recognise and pass on incoming and outgoing bits of code, very fast and very accurately. The Amy cannot think fearful thoughts, as it is not conscious. Nor can it feel fearful sensations, as it has no senses. All the Amy gets is code, and once again, garbage in = garbage out. Blaming the Amy for creating our fears is like blaming a messenger for bad news they deliver. Nor is it the Amy's fault if it only has a set of sentiments to direct motivation with rather than emotions, or if it's receiving false input, or if every decision it makes is laced with cortisol.[7]

Labrat experiments have badly confused the issue of what a healthy Amygdala does too because (a) labrats have high cortisol, unlike wild rats and (b) researchers label rats' amygdalas' aversion to them getting electrocuted as fear, whereas some of us see this behavior as quite possibly a sensible memory of and aversion to a painful sensory overload, just as we have ourselves.

A healthy feeling of alarm about encountering things that harm us is not fear. All this means in a lab is you've either got a panicking unhealthy labrat or you've got an alarmed healthy wild rat, and this proves little about the Amygdala's role in human emotion.

If we're healthy and well balanced, the processes of our mind, the sets of chemicals, the emotions we feel, and our human- (or rat-) level behavior should all be moving in synchrony towards the same goal; motivation to promote the benefit of the organism.

It is not the Amy either that determines how we respond, our responses emerge from biology's 3 billion years' worth of evolutionary experience-based programming, interacting with our current brain chemistry, our current context, and our processing skills of imagination, memory and prediction. The Amy's task is simply to open the behavioral gate to benefits and close it against dangers.


Nasty or Nice? Determining Benefit or Danger

‘Good news’ patterns for the Amy are those that fall inside the green zone for input density/power.

In other words, good input patterns indicate that the organism is moving towards optimal performance, success, and learning ability.

‘Bad news’ patterns are those that threaten or present sensory overload or sensory deprivation.

Good news and bad news is, however, ALL good input, as long as it's true. Input is meant to be accurate information from reality, 'warts and all'; enabling us to navigate away from the harmful and towards the beneficial. If the pattern is ‘bad news’, transmission patterns are recognized as no longer optimal and this in itself prompts the release of dopamine and the motivation to change things. But down at the bottom, the Amy is weighting input based on only one question: “Does this percept-pattern match this concept-pattern?" In terms of the whole organism, this translates as: "Does this situation promise to move me towards further improvement, or threaten to move me away from it?” This is what the unconscious mind as a whole is computing and predicting. And in motivational terms this means, 'what is important to pay attention to?'

This is the same question the mind is asking unconsciously as infants when we are deciding from experience what is ‘nasty’ or ‘nice’. It is always the same goal that a healthy mind pursues, because the evolutionary intent that makes sense for biology as well as cognition drives it to do so. Evolution itself is compelled to explore the same question across the millennia through constant variation, mutation, trial and error, because interactive adaptation to a constantly changing context is the natural course of events from which success emerges.

That's why we inherit the genetic potenial for building all the tools and abilities we might need to actualize that potential, including the unconscious database of our species' 'body of knowledge'.

The benefit of this ongoing inheritance for complex organisms is that intelligence constantly improves its ability to work out (both consciously and unconsciously) which patterns do and don’t lead to good outcomes in advance. The experience of ages has shaped the mind into a prediction engine simply because that is the system which best succeeds (by 'succeeds' we mean takes in (pays unconscious attention to) input and produces output that leads to thriving.)

This 'shortcut-to-success' predictive system brings an immense saving in energy-expenditure; a creature with predicitive abilities is no longer reliant on automatic responses to get it up the tree when the tiger comes or when the flood happens; it can remember where the tiger lives, it can predict the onset of flooding, and avoid the area.

This sounds like the bleeding obvious to an intelligence such as ours but this shift; from creatures with purely unconscious automatic control in response to environmental triggers, to creatures with autonomous input control and forward planning, is both immense and fundamental, brings the phase shift in processing that neccesitates emotion, and emerges from the fundamental needs of life following 'least energy wasted/best results' algorithms.

Automation can achieve some great things. Once a danger or benefit pattern is unconsciously recognized, automatic networks can respond so extraordinarily fast because they are literally wired to be mechanical; there is no thought necessary. All is automatic; it's literally as simple as a motion detector sending a signal that moves a robot arm or runs a needed application; a yes or no, 0/1 choice.

Simple, '0/1' choices can also provide all the relevant transmitters necessary to prompt the appropriate behavior for each basic type of interaction likely to unfold, for as long as input continues. Each selection of associated chemicals motivates one particular type of behavior.

Identifying the different patterns in density (how many items or events are associated in a given context) and power (how strong was the weighting of each event over what period of time) in input data gives the Amy enough information to know what chemical responses to associate with it, and also how much to release, because weighting is not just about what or how many associated events are going on, it is also about the power or 'importance' of events.

Often, N3 must predict the probability of ‘hazards’ versus ‘risks’ –all dangers are hazards of varying degree, but how high is the risk (ie, how likely is the danger to actualize?) Conversely, all benefits are potential opportunities, but how likely are they to really emerge?

A great deal of our experience will have a whole range of benefits and dangers in it, so population voting on probabilities by many individual neurons determines the overall assessment –in the end it’s just numbers of associations that match up, and their relative weightings. If the danger is ‘outvoted’ because the beneficial associations are dominant, the event gets an overall ‘good news’ rating and chemistry will be modulated to continue interaction. Population decoding of neural responses in the dorsal medial superior temporal area closely predicts this behavioral cue weighting. [8]

If the ratio between 'benefit' and 'hazard' votes is small, assessment continues via secondary asssociations until N3 reaches a decision. We engage in such situations cautiously until that decision is made.


Automatic Responses and Free Will

Some people find out about the Amy’s automatic response system for behavior and conclude that we have no free will. This is not true, because we are (or should be) able to bring almost all of neurotransmission, emotion and behavior (including automatic behavior) under conscious and volitional control whenever we wish to do so.

We don’t need to do that for events that are simple and straightforward –for example we don’t have to decide whether or not we want to dive for cover if somethng explodes, or decide to close our eye if a fly is about to hit it, for example –we can allow the automatic responses to take place in full conscious agreement with the Amy’s sensible decision! But if we need to run towards an explosion (for example to rescue a loved ally), a flexible intelligence should be able to consciously override that decision and change our minds –literally- quelling the unconscious motivation to run away beneath our more important conscious intent to rescue the ally. That very intent should change our neurochemistry, putting our minds and bodies into the optimal state for heroics. This can only happen if the system 'gets the message', and the message is modulated by emotional weighting.

In more complex organisms with conscious association, the automatic system is (or should be) only a default for basics; to be used as long as nothing more is required. Over and above all this, we are (or we should be) in charge. Our ability to assert control in physical, chemical, emotional and behavioral ways IS free will; the autonomy of self to control our response and our own behavior -to be responsive is to 'take responsibility' for, and use our abilities in, our own interactions.

If we have developed that autonomy and are using it, then we have free will. If we haven't, we don't. The question, "do humans have free will?" can only be uncomfortably but honestly answered, "Only if they bother to develop it."

Becoming who you have the potential to be takes time and effort. That's why our self esteem and confidence go up so much when we achieve it. Dudes who are good at ANYTHING do it a lot.

Input control is one aspect of 'free will'; autonomy of input means that you control exactly what you want to 'take in', whenever you need to, wherever you need to.

Other aspects of free will you should be practising at this level are self-autonomy (control of what goes on inside your own body & mind) most usually achieved via biofeedback methods or devices; and autonomy of output on a behavioral level, including voluntary control of your own appearance, tone of voice, facial expressions, movements, postures, breathing patterns, relaxation response and habits of sleeping and eating. This is personal freedom, and freedom from anxiety is part of it too.

We can also harness the power of the automatic response system to enhance our cognitive abilities, but more on that later...

The more we know about our power to interact with our 'circumstances', the more freedom we have to change them. At this stage, you should be taking over direction of your own attention, your own orientation and your own behavior. The more you do this, the more you will take pride in taking care of youself and your situation, and the greater will be your self esteem and confidence.

Note: It's kind of obvious through experience that we can increase our ability to direct what we pay attention to, given a bit of experience and practice, but many students have difficulty understanding what 'orientation' means. On the concrete physical level it means (as Master Yoda said) keeping your mind on where you are and what you are doing in the here and now, but it also means tuning out distractions and moving your body to keep your senses attuned to whatever you are attending to, whether its pedaling a bike or peering down a microscope. Attention is like staring at a picture, orientation is like keeping track of items in a moving sequence of pictures. Together they enable concentration to become automatic, freeing up networks for observation of details.

For a 'full interactive view' of reality, and to develop these skills to their optimal we need all six networks functioning in complementary unison doing their intended processes, because we need the unconscious mind (using most of the brain) to behave in accordance and agreement with the conscious mind, we need our input to be totally relevant to our needs, and we need our output (behavior) to be totally relevant to circumstances.

Using the skills of our frontal nets to control the behavior of our rear ones is all part of ongoing NH development and the old-fashioned names for this ability are 'self control' or 'willpower'. Exercising this power is expressing free will. It means you are free from being dragged around by anxiety about other people's (or societys') sentiments, opinions, or intentions.

Below is an MRI of someone exerting self control [110]



It is plain to see via MRI when this ability is absent, but long before we had the benefit of MRI, lack of self control was observable in behavior. It will become ever more obvious to you from your own observations that there is a large difference in ability between those who can exert self control in behavior and those who cannot, particularly when sentiment (and often when alcohol) is involved.

You'll also notice differences between people in attention control, emotional control, and adaptation around distractions. Meanwhile, your own control of your self will be constantly improving. But don't forget we need to exercise these abilities regularly in order to keep those networks connecting.

To have autonomy, we need to be able to assert conscious control in modulating what are normally unconscious processes, and working from the bottom up we start by achieving physical and chemical balance (that's why we have been doing via anxiety reduction and input control), in order to develop the foundational tools for emotional stability.

There are exercises for improving autonomy ('willpower') at the end of this tutorial.




Consider what techniques you know for:

(a) making yourself feel sexually aroused

(b) calming yourself down and relaxing

(c) cheering yourself up

(d) feeling joy, love and appreciation

(e) inspiring yourself

(f) making yourself feel more confident


If you don't yet know how to do any of these, you shouldn't be doing intermediate tutorials yet.

Chances are you know how to do most of them, but most westerners find they are not as fast at learning ways of turning feelings down or off as they are at learning to intitiate them or turn them on. Thus its often harder to calm down than it is to get excited.

This is not genetic, it is caused by society's (including parents') influences on birth and upbringing. Most westerners overdevelop networks 2 and/or 5 due to schooling, these are useful for the stress half of the stress-relaxation response, but in this case at the expense of networks 1 & 4, which we need for focused control, creativity and relaxation (not to mention nurturing, including self-nurturing.)

People from cultures that once promoted meditation and relaxation techniques as a matter of everyday habit once used to find it hard to understand how westerners get anxious so easily, many are now learning by experience, as western-style society brings them constant coercion and impoverished (urban) environments, supplemented with sleep-interruption, a western work ethic and dire nutrition. A few years of that and they'll be just as anxious and full of cortisol as the best of the west.


Motivation and Behavior: the Emotional Connection

'Motivation' refers to unconscious processes underlying our conscious interactive engagement with the world. Automatically-triggered motivation relates closely to homeostasis and results in instinctual, unconscious behaviors that help to steer us away from dangers and towards benefits.


Objects in Motion

Behavior is all about objects in motion through spacetime. Behavior is perceived by unconsciously attaching a frame of reference (context) to an object (agent) and measuring the agents' change in position relative to another reference frame.

Nothing in the universe appears to be able to exhibit behavior (move) without energy (a force). Newton's laws describe the relationship between the forces acting on a body and the motion of that body. Humans, like all things in the universe are in constant motion,[9] and aside from obvious movements of external body parts and locomotion, humans are in motion internally in a variety of ways which are more difficult to perceive without the help of special tools and careful observation.

Micromuscular Responses

Researchers [10] filmed newborn infants as the babies listened to various sounds. Their analysis showed all healthy infants displayed micromuscular responses (micromovements) in response to the phonemes ('bits') of language, in synchrony with the rhythms of human speech.

Every person's micromovement repertoire is as individual as their fingerprints, and they last for our whole lives. Random noise, rhythmic tapping, or disconnected vowel sounds will not produce this "language-response-dance." Only the natural rhythms of human speech have this effect. The same muscle moves in response to the same phoneme each time the phoneme sounds, like an automatic coupling between specific sensory input and specific motor response.

The tendency in research on this was to first attempt to find correlations between brain activity and these micromovements, but knowing that still didn't explain how the experience of the organism in real life is integrated, organized, and finds its meaning in terms of coordinated movement (appropriate behaviors),[11] just as knowing the correlations between structure and function in perception fails to explain how consciousness ties all the fragments together into a seamless ongoing experience.


Reality: World as It Is

As we already learned in previous tutorials, our perceived environment and lived experience emerge as end-products of processing. They are not just the 'processes in our brains'; nor the 'input from out there'. They emerge from the interaction between the two.[29]

Innate and adaptive behaviors of animals as individuals and socially have been described in detail over the past two centuries [12]. The behavior of an animal is intrinsically creative and cooperative with the organisms wellbeing always in mind.[13]

Organisms move with good purpose; that is, they are automatically driven by intent to interact in ways that will be beneficial to themselves and their context. Purposeful behavior driven by biological intent is not action/reaction, or 'conditioning behavior' teaching us to react faster. It is interaction. Living organisms move with congruous intent directed by natural entelechy through interaction and imaginative conscious experience of the world they move in, their functions held together by patterns of 'horizontal control'. [14]

Sensing the world as context space in relation to the form and displacements of events and objects endowed with material bodies, they have a hardwired intent to be curious about their surroundings and the objects in it, feeling with intrinsic emotional weighting based on real evolutionary experience how to avoid harm and to gain benefits from what life offers. They seek what all life seeks; a a state of interactive and yet secure wellbeing; the optimal conditions for growth & development.

This is the nature of all animal unconscious self-awareness, including ours. It depends upon sensorimotor signals formulating movements in prescribed ways [15] while anticipating what it will feel like to move in those ways, [16] on perceiving affordances (how the sensed environment can help behavior achieve its goals),[17] and on intrinsic unconscious awareness that is generated according to ancient innate evolutionary principles in the core neurochemistry of the brain.[18]

Animals that live in groups have evolved ways of interacting, of moving in complementary or coordinated ways and sensing the power and purposes of one another's movements intersubjectively, so that, by cooperating in their motives, they can increase their individual and collective benefits and their adaptation in and of a sustaining ecology. They make their autonomic and deliberate self-regulations of vital state apparent to one another, so they can interact emotionally in empathetic (and successful) ways.[19]

Their interactive life requires that they evaluate the purposes of one another by detecting intent, interests, likes, dislikes and responses from the energetic and self-regulating qualities of each other's movements, alteroceptively (unconsciously). They are born with adaptations of body and brain to initiate both individual and cooperative purposes by producing controlled effects in motion (behavior).[20]

Human beings, having evolved in group cultures, do all of these things, and a lot more. The cooperative cultural experience of a meaningful world depends, in every human community, upon skills of interest, initiative in interaction and emotional evaluations that have been created and 'fine tuned' by all past generations' experience in the evolution of their world [21]

Even as very young infants, we communicate with an artful imagination ready to pick up new expressive tricks. [22] Neonatal hands make many delicate movements in 'self-synchrony' with other body movements, face expressions and vocalizations, and these movements are capable of empathetic 'inter-synchrony', with the movements of looking and speaking of an adult.[23]

All these innate gestural and vocal expressions exhibit coordination by an 'intrinsic motive pulse', a time sense generated and regulated in the brain,[24] with variations of 'vitality

dynamics'.[25] The changes in direction, rate, power and combination of movements are highly significant in communication as expressions of different motivations, abilities, and needs,[26] and all these parameters are controlled with precision in the movements of infants.

Accurate recording via neurotech of how behaviors unfold in time and space reveals that there is a consistent regulation by 'motor images'[27] and that these can be described with remarkable economy and precision by a mathematical formula called the 'tauG' function.[28] Variation of form in the family of curves described by the function can be closely compared to expressions of emotion and the feelings they stimulate when expressed in purposeful activities of any kind, and in dance, music, song or poetic speech.

The inner imagery that controls behavior is the same inner imagery that N3 uses for bestowing meaning and importance by association. In organisms that respond only automatically, no meaning is required, and behavior is very limited. Two systems only need to be targeted: automatic internal motion (visceral motion changes inside the body, for example heart rate or respiration), and automatic external motion (locomotion/ behavioral movements of the face and body). This sort of system needs only a tiny amount of memory, and its fast.

In humans, when an image is generated in the inner model it prompts three things in parallel: internal motion, external motion, and emotion (chemical motion needed to achieve specific mental states). With well balanced rear nets, each section of this three-part system should express the same reality in different ways, just as pressing the 'on' button on your computer simultaneously triggers useful behavior from hardware and software in unison.

This threefold combination of synchronized events is "human behavior". The body cannot move without the mind. The same signaling system used to evaluate dangers and benefits in perception and weight them in memory also directs the appropriate response of all three systems.


Why Did Emotion Evolve?

Next, think about what emotion is for. It has evolved primarily because desire and interest, learning and adaptability, and most importantly directable motivation are all in the interests of any species’ survival in the cultural context of group interaction.

Emotion gives meaning and value to input, allowing complex associative memory, empathy and imagination to develop. Emotion enables swift silent communication on levels words cannot, inspires us to learn, enables bonding for group cooperation, rewards us for doing whatever is beneficial and warns us when danger is afoot.

Automatic motivation systems are very basic because they have evolved to enable basic animal behaviors and ensure their success in acquiring their needs. A strong drive to have sex, eat well and avoid tigers are heritable characteristics, while celibacy and playing with snakes are not.

For all of our history, every living animal on earth has more or less the same options for basic physical behaviors because biological life always has similar basic needs, the details variable according to size, weight, complexity and musculature, and moderated by the context of the world's physical laws within which it lives.

Simple organisms only need a few basic rules to achieve a small variety of effective behaviors that achieves everything. Hardwired motivation to do simple things like, 'IF food detected THEN move towards" or "IF danger detected THEN move away' enable even the simplest of creatures to succeed in life.

These are absolute core behaviors for all living organisms doing their thing in spacetime. As we have seen when looking at the Amygdala, such behavior can be absolutely automatic, and many simple creatures rely on such automation and their senses and need nothing more. Automatic response memory fits into a nice small package, unlike the memory needed for conscious autonomous response and freedom of choice.

Most simple animals have more automatic hardwired programs than humans do, precisely because we are able to adjust our own programming to suit different contexts, whereas many simpler creatures aren't. They depend on a single environment that doesn't change very much or very rapidly, and their automatic programs are adequate for thriving in their own contexts.

The downside of this is that any sudden climate, intrusion, or ecosystem change is liable to wipe them out, as we have seen in recent times in many contexts. Automatic responses also depend on actual sensory contact or needs for motivation, because biology doesn't waste energy (for example, amebas don't explore unless they need something. If you put them in a petri dish with food and no hassle, they just sit there eating and reproducing.) When systems are automatic or unconscious, its hard to adjust them to change. You don't find innovation and adaptation and they don't need self-control (autonomy).

Intelligence doesn't need to develop any further; such species have remained successful for millenia in a comfortable niche where nothing more is needed. That's why no matter how many thousands of years they are around on planet Earth, we'll never see maggots reading "what carcass" magazine.

To develop autonomous creatures that can learn and change, adapt themselves and their environment, and cooperate together, intelligence needs much more than "IF you meet an agent, THEN run Neo." But the transfer of response control from automation to include autonomy can't just happen randomly 'by itself' for no reason -biology never wastes energy, and it takes a large amount of energy to build and run complex intelligence.

If responses are automatic, nothing needs to have 'meaning' to an organisms mind as being any more important than anything else; it just experiences some times when it seems compelled to move in direction x or y. Things happen TO it, with no concept of cause and effect. There is no motivation for its having any interest in or paying attention to anything more, it can effectively run on automatic and stop evolving. That makes very effective amebas, but entire species get wiped out when conditions change, because they cannot adapt.

There cannot be versatility and adaptation until real concrete events are associated with meaning; prompting motivation by choice outside of automation. Where there is no meaning, there can be no association for conscious memory or forward planning.


Hardware turns into software when code is given meaning, and emotion is the physiological response that allocates meaning and value to input code via neurochemistry.

Emotions are different states of physiology, each accessing different behavioral memories to create a mind state and behavior that correlates (or should) with our body state, inner concepts and conscious ideas, turning us into powerfully adaptive organisms.

Emotion is what produces the chemicals necessary for motivation in autonomous systems, prompts memory and imagination and enables the learning cycle to begin. Without emotion we can mimic things (repeat information without understanding, such as repeating birdsong or animal calls,) or we can convey information mindlessly as in a 'Chinese room'. But we cannot model meaning (understand what information birdsong or animal calls or Chinese signs convey, or how to use that information ourselves by seeing how they use it), because emotional weighting associated with coded signals is what gives information meaning.

Without weighting, no information is more important than any other. For amebas, most inputs appear as bland 'things' against a bland context and can be ignored.

In practical evolutionary terms, to move from automation to autonomy in animals intelligence needed a 'software solution' that could somehow allocate conscious as well as associated unconscious meaning and value to input (so that thoughts and ideas could trigger motivation and behavior as effectively as automatic responses).

To be workable, such a software must be dynamic and applicable to all important life situations in real time, so that motivation could be directed by input feedback. This would allow behavior to be fine-tuned to be more and more appropriate to the context, which is what adaptation is all about.

To be great, the system should communicate both within individuals and between individuals, and synchronize its processes and signaling to coordinate body state with motivational state and emotional state.

Automatic behavioral memory had run out of hard drive in the evolution of simple creatures (most of it in us is now crammed into the cerebellum). An input-weighting system like emotion, however, demands large quantities of storage space for an associational database; without it intelligence can go no further and remains unable to comprehend anything outside any creature's current experience. To survive ever-changing circumstances, to push the edge and rise to the occasion, intelligence needed predictive association, a really large dynamic memory system, imagination, and high-resolution interactive real-time communication.

To be 'kept in mind', ie to become a bit of memory, even temporarily, a pattern of data relating to a concept must be given some sort of 'weight' rating that makes it more important to pay attention to than everything else. For long term memory-to-behavior association, the weighting on each pattern must also assist in forming permanent records of frequently needed behaviors related to concepts, and as a cheeky bonus new habits and associations can be made automatic by using already-existing 'automatic memory space' (that is now freeing up in the cerebellum because the system doesn't need so many hardwired responses, in fact most of the time 'chosen' behaviors are becoming habitual). That way each individual creature can make its own personally-experienced, most-often-required behaviors automatic (habitual) over time.

This newly-evolving system must also, most importantly, have some way of allowing large chunks of separately stored yet in-context associated data to be accessed in any order, assembled together in cache and 'held in mind' all at the same time, so that the creature is primed to rapidly recall and do everything that is appropriate during each behavior or decision, in real time first-person interaction in the complex game of life.

In short, to develop any further, intelligent minds needed a better gaming system.

And at this point in evolution, the master programmer "intelligence" discovered the secret of true gaming system happiness: "Always get as much RAM as you can possibly afford."


Emotional weighting and the ingenious use of N3's inner 'spatial navigation' model for mapping abstract 'concept navigation' gave intelligence the dynamic database that enabled imagination and memory to associate meaning and transformed life on earth; from a simple soup of automatic sequences and responses going on inside unconscious biological mechanisms like plants and amebae, to a complex network of conscious, intelligent, individual autonomous interactors.

No longer just observers of what happened to them, creatures were now embodied participators with their own designs on what happened to them and their own ideas about what they'd like to happen to them. All life moves, and always has, but this stuff could move AND it had an opinion.

This is why emotion evolved. Without it, life could not achieve any autonomy in environmental interaction. Evolution has co-opted automatic responses and sensorimotor navigation tools into learning new tricks whilst still keeping the most essential old ones, for example that good old flight response if we are suddenly attacked unawares, and these tricks give life an astonishing amount of flexibility and autonomy to navigate, adapt, and shape its own destiny; the gift of free will.

Organisms' decisions with this new free will (and decision-making was now constant and often vital) were guided by their equally-newly-evolving imagination/memory/emotional system, that gives meaning, type and importance to all that they perceive (and at this point in development intelligence is perceiving consciously as well as unconsciously, and using sounds as well as body language, pheromones and facial expressions, to communicate emotion).

Emotional expression can spread silently at high speed with very little effort on behalf of the 'sender' except for eye contact or a subliminal odor in the air. The advantages for any species are obvious.


Basic Emotions

In humans, differences in cultures and languages lead to huge variations in local behavior and it has sometimes been speculated that all emotional expressions are learned and will therefore differ across cultures. Unfortunately this conclusion is based on most studies including a mish-mash of some sentiments and some emotions, but fortunately there is a clearer path to follow, begun by the Great-grandfather of Genetics, Charles Darwin:

Darwin noticed thet the emotional behavior in animals (for example, alarm calls, status/sexual displays or defensive posturing) seemed often a lot more melodramatic or 'intense' than that of humans. By observation of sentiment today, we may conclude that this isn't necessarily true. We currently live in a society of sentimental incontinence where the sexual display in night clubs is every bit as provocative as that of a bird of paradise, and where everybody is expected to go hysterical and melodramatic at the drop of a hat, just like they do on television.

Darwin lived in a society and time where 'only women did that', where male emotional suppression beneath a bland and grave stiff-upper-lip, synthetic christian politeness was promoted and enforced by peers, and Men didn't cry. People were taught that it was possible to control their own behavior, but this ability was subverted for hiding or suppressing their own emotions (and they usually did so, possibly from fear of ending up in some asylum for having 'hysteria', or being suspected of demonic possession). It was just as stupid as our time, it was just stupid in different ways.

So (and perhaps due to this social context) Darwin missed the point of the usefulness of healthy emotion in humans, as he probably didn't see very many examples of it. He did, however, make some acute observations, one being that there seem to be six basic behaviors in all higher animals that we humans relate to emotion and that we have distinct facial expressions for.[30] From his travels around the world, he concluded that basic emotional expressions were universal in humans, even though the details of local customs, languages and cultures differ widely. Certain emotional states, such as affection, defensiveness, pleasure and pain, seemed to be universal and his interest was thay they were possibly inherited.

Darwin had no concept of emotions being different than sentiments, so he also studied sentiments like anger and fear, but found the interpretations were no longer universal (the expression most people found hardest to identify was fear). This conclusion has also been reached by more recent researchers.[31] It is surprising that emotion and sentiment have not been separated in mainstream studies, as there is now a large body of pan-cultural research supporting the universal nature of the recognition of emotional facial expressions and of the way that these expressions are produced (from MCG recordings of facial muscle activity), but no such universality of sentiment.

What's more, blind children, who could never have learned from visual modeling, produce the same spontaneous emotional facial expressions. These basic expressions, like basic emotions and basic behaviors, are hardwired in.

Regardless of how we culturally express them, we are all able to experience the same basic emotions, all obvious from birth, which are shown below with a selection of names that different cultures and different individuals use to describe them:



Parents will immediately recognize the equivalents of these in newborn healthy babies (you may not see disgust unless s/he tastes something bitter, but it's there).

As emotionality matures, a second set quickly develops, some taking longer than others:



We're not the only species that uses facial expression for emotional communication. Most mammals have their own equivalents:


Rat facial expressions for: "Nice!" (left); "Nasty!" (right).


Rats that have just enjoyed a tasty chocolate snack (left) open their eyes wider, relax the nose, and lick their lips a lot. Rats experiencing a disgusting bitter taste (right) squeeze up their eyes, wrinkle their nose, move their whiskers forward and bare their teeth, rather amusingly like we do, communicating just as efficiently to their fellows, mates and offspring clear signals on what to avoid eating. 

Human emotional expression is not confined to the face of course. Body motion, posture, tone of voice, eye and skin changes and pheromones all contribute, and much of this behavior is still automatic. (If you doubt that many of our gestures or facial expressions are automatic, watch someone on the telephone. Despite the fact that the other person cannot see them, gesturing and facial expression go right ahead as if they were talking face to face.)

What we are pointing out here is the fact that emotions are intrinsically linked with and cannot be separated from behaviors. Emotions are the inner 'behaviors' of networks of cells that correlate with our external behaviors and inner physiological behaviors. Another way of saying this is that emotions emerge from the interaction between internal and external behaviors; between the mind and its contextual reality.


Evidence from Brain Imaging

Brain imaging procedures offer the opportunity to explore emotion in healthy human volunteers. Areas of regional brain activity for various emotions have been ascertained from meta-analysis[32] and are reproduced below:


Q: 1. Which of these four emotions is associated with Amygdala activation in the highest proportion of studies?

2. Why do you think this is?

3. As one of the strongest feelings we often get, why doesn't offense activate the Amy?

 Clues: look at the two sets of emotional expressions in the pictures of faces. Which ones are hardwired? Which ones develop as we mature?


A: 1. Alarm is the emotion that most usually involves Amygdala activity.

2. All the emotions that strongly affect the Amygdala are from the 'basic' group that have their responses hardwired in.

3. Offense doesn't activate the Amy because it's a response that develops with maturity. When we're small, our defense is taken care of by others who get offended on our behalf. Notice how much 'offense' needs to use the frontal cortex, to make sure that high risk defensive behaviors are not employed without real need.



Last Updated on Monday, 29 May 2017 14:04