More may have been learned about the brain and the mind in the 1990s - the so-called decade of the brain - than during the entire previous history of psychology and neuroscience.— Antonio Damasio
The most empowering Antonio Damasio quotes you will be delighted to read
A conscious mind is a mind with a self in it.
I continue to be fascinated by the fact that feelings are not just the shady side of reason but that they help us to reach decisions as well.
Emotions are enmeshed in the neural networks of reason.
The problem that we, as living organisms, face - and not we only, humans, but any living organism faces - is the management of life.
Consciousness permits us to develop the instruments of culture - morality and justice, religion, art, economics and politics, science and technology. Those instruments allow us some measure of freedom in the confrontation with nature.
When you experience the emotion of sadness, there will be changes in facial expression, and your body will be closed in, withdrawn. There are also changes in your heart, your guts: they slow down. And there are hormonal changes.
Emotion consists of a very well orchestrated set of alterations in the body that has, as a general purpose, making life more survivable by taking care of a danger, of taking care of an opportunity, either/or, or something in between.
There's something that intervenes and is very important which has to do with value. Value in the true biological sense, which is that contrary to what many people seem to think, taking it at face value - sorry for the pun - we do not give the same amount of emotional significance to every event.
We are not passive exhibitors of visual or auditory or tactile images.
We have selves. We have a Me that is automatically present in our minds right now.
When you deal with something like compassion for physical pain, which we know is very, very old in evolution - we can find evidence for it in nonhuman species - the brain processes it at a faster speed. Compassion for mental pain took many seconds longer.
The autobiographical self has prompted extended memory, reasoning, imagination, creativity and language. And out of that came the instruments of culture - religions, justice, trade, the arts, science, technology.
Emotion is set in our genome and that we all have with a certain programmed nature that is modified by our experience so individually we have variations on the pattern. But in essence, your emotion of joy and mine are going to be extremely similar.
Some of us, for better or worse, develop very stable, consistent, and largely predictable machineries of self. But in others, the self machinery is more flexible and more open to unexpected turns.
Narratives are not fixed. We change our narratives for ourselves and we change them not necessarily deliberately. In other words, some people do, some people will constantly reconstruct their biography for external purposes, it's a very interesting political ploy.
What happens [in a coma] is that you lose the grounding of the self, you no longer have access to any feeling of your own existence.
We do not merely perceive objects and hold thoughts in our minds: all our perceptions and thought processes are felt. All have a distinctive component that announces an unequivocal link between images and the existence of life in our organism.
Leaving out appraisal also would render the biological description of the phenomena of emotion vulnerable to the caricature that emotions without an appraisal phase are meaningless events. It would be more difficult to see how beautiful and amazingly intelligent emotions can be, and how powerfully they can solve problems for us.
We may express them [emotions] physically slightly differently, and it's of course graded depending on the circumstance, but the essence of the process is going to be the same, unless one of us is not quite well put together and is missing something, otherwise it's going to be the same.
For pure joy, I look at a small painting by Arbit Blatas.
An ocean liner is at the center of the composition, perhaps ready to depart. It holds the promise of discovery.
How can you have this reference point, this stability, that is required to maintain the continuity of selves day after day?
Consciousness, much like our feelings, is based on a representation of the body and how it changes when reacting to certain stimuli. Self-image would be unthinkable without this representation.
To me, body and mind are different aspects of specific biological processes.
The autobiographical self is built on the basis of past memories and memories of the plans that we have made; it's the lived past and the anticipated future.
The emotion is the execution of a very complex program of actions.
Some actions that are actually movements, like movement that you can do, change your face for example, in fear, or movements that are internal, that happen in your heart or in your gut, and movements that are actually not muscular movements, but rather, releases of molecules.
We may smile and the dog may wag the tail, but in essence, we have a set program and those programs are similar across individuals in the species.
It's very interesting to think about the distinction with mind, which I just made in very general terms, but it can be made more profound when we think that there are many species, many creatures on earth that are very likely to have a mind, but are very unlikely to have a consciousness in the sense that you and I have.
Emotion operates, very often when you think about how you react to the world, you know, something is happening to you, you're simply going along and you're being confronted by different things, not necessarily very important or significance for your ultimate life, but you are constantly reacting to the world.
We all woke up this morning and we had with it the amazing return of our conscious mind. We recovered minds with a complete sense of self and a complete sense of our own existence - yet we hardly ever pause to consider this wonder.
The self is a perpetually recreated neurobiological state.
There is a sequence of events in our lives and so there's a temporal aspect to our experience that brings by itself, sense into the story. In other words, you were not walking before you were born and you were not doing X and Y before you did something else first. So there's a sequencing of events that imposes a certain structure to the story.
When we talk about emotion, we really talk about a collection of behaviors that are produced by the brain. You can look at a person in the throes of an emotion and observe changes in the face, in the body posture, in the coloration of the skin and so on.
We are not thinking machines that feel; rather, we are feeling machines that think.
Imagine, for example, birds. When they look out at the world, they have a sense that they are alive. If they are in pain, they can do something about it. If they have hunger or thirst, they can satisfy that. It's this basic feeling that there is life ticking away inside of you.
In 'Self Comes to Mind' I pay a lot of attention to simple creatures without brains or minds, because those 'cartooned abstractions of who we are' operate on precisely the same principles that we do.
There's that effect that is very physical, very down there at the synaptic level, which really means microscopic cellular level, but also molecular level, because all of those structures are operating on an electrochemical basis and so the changes there are very important.
A mind is so closely shaped by the body and destined to serve it that only one mind could possibly arise in it. No body, never mind.
In the heart of consciousness is subjectivity, this sense of having a self that observes one's own organism and the world around that organism. That is really the heart of consciousness.
I got interested in the emotions after studying patients who had lost the ability to emote and feel under certain circumstances. Many of those patients also had major impairments in their ability to make decisions.
Although when you look at people that say, from the same culture, roughly the same age, and not very difference intelligence, and you make a lot of detailed questions about the experiences of say colors, situations, and so on, you'll get very similar answers.
The mechanism of primary emotions does not describe the full range of emotional behaviors. They are, to be sure, the basic mechanism. However, I believe that in terms of an individual's development they are followed by mechanisms of secondary emotions, which occur once we begin experiencing feelings and forming systematic connections between categories of objects and situations, on the one hand, and primary emotions, on the other.
I think it's possible to a certain extent to make those comparisons.
The problem is the detail with which the comparison can be made. Of course, the first place to make such a comparison would be to ask for a testimony from different people and have people report on what they experience.
You know, mind allows us to portray in different sensory modalities, visual, auditory, olfactory, you name it, what we are like and what the world is like. But this very, very important quality of subjectivity, this quality that allows us to take a distant view and say, "I am here, I exist, I have a life and there are things around me that refer to me." That me-ness, M-E-hyphen, that is what really constitutes consciousness.
But whether we want to do it because we want to have people to have a different idea of who we are or not, we do it naturally. So the way we construct our narrative is different from the way we constructed it a year ago. The difference is maybe very small or it may be huge.
A self that is very robust, that has many, many levels of organization, from simple to complex, and that functions as a sort of witness to what is going on in our organisms.
There are ways in which you can make that distinction objective to a certain degree. For example, by looking at responses that could be generated in the brain to exactly the same stimulus and there could be differences there.
If I use the word consciousness, in our lab, in our institute, what we mean is the special quality of mind, the special features that exist in the mind, that permit us to know, for example, that we, ourselves, exist, and that things exist around us.
Writing long hand is the last refuge.
One needs the time it takes to put pencil to paper and let it run along the ruled line.
I think it's reasonable to say that even thought, in all likelihood, we have slightly different experiences of reality, they are similar enough to us not to clash. In other words, I'm not, it's very unlikely, in fact, let's say impossible, for you to say the situation in which you and I are in right now, relative to the machinery that is capturing this.
We're seeing it the same way, we're hearing the same way, we have the same conception of the situation. And so, for all purposes, we are operating with a very similar perception.