Emotions and cognitive processing

Emotions and cognitive processing

Emotions have long been thought to be innately programmed by subcortical brain regions, whereas cognitive states of consciousness, such as those related to perception and memory, are believed to be rooted in various circuits involving cortical brain regions.

Researchers challenge the conventional view that separate brain regions govern emotional and cognitive consciousness, and argue that emotional experiences emerge not from subcortical circuits, but from the cortical network responsible for producing cognitive states of consciousness.

To illustrate their thesis, the authors build on higher-order theory, a leading theory of consciousness, with a focus on fear. The conscious experience of fear, the authors contend, involves the coalescence of various inputs in cortical cognitive circuits, including neural signals from sensory, memory, threat detection, and arousal systems in the brain as well as other body responses, to form the emotional experience.

The authors’ resulting theory accounts for differences between the emotional and cognitive states of consciousness by accounting for variation in information processed by cortical brain circuits. According to the authors, the proposed theory might help illuminate how other emotions arise from cortical networks.