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Question about emotions versus reactions

Rodrigo Ventura yoda at isr.ist.utl.pt
Wed Feb 24 19:01:42 EST 1999

        Hi. I'm a researcher in the field of AI (artif. intelligence),
my work is about artificial emotions (or emotion-based agents, if you
prefer the name), but I am extremely interested in neuroscience. In
our AI discussion group we have been debating the following issue, but
we are kind-of stuck... Here is my question to this forum:

        Let's assume a functional division of the CNS in three layers
[MacLean]: a "reptile" brain which is based in reactive behavior, a
"mamalian" brain which involves emotions (limbic system), and the
neocortex associated with reasoning, etc. The question is: how can the
reactive layer (e.g., the spinal cord response to a burning stimulus)
and emotions (e.g., fear) be functionally distinguished. I mean, how
can one describe these two layers without resorting to morpholigic
arguments (such as this involves the thalamus, or that involves just
the spinal cord)?

        Another question that is related with this is: when did the
limbic system appeared, in the species evolutio, in the brain
(reptile? mamalian? birds? ants? bees? spiders?)? And more
imposrtanty, what was the _qualitatively_ step that evolution took
when emotions appeared? What was the shortcomings of the non-emotional
animals that lead to the appearence of emotions?

        I'd appreciate any response/discussion around these questions,
either by email or in this newsgroup.



*** Rodrigo Martins de Matos Ventura, alias <Yoda>
***  yoda at isr.ist.utl.pt, http://www.isr.ist.utl.pt/~yoda
***   Teaching Assistant and MSc. Student at ISR:
***    Instituto de Sistemas e Robotica, Polo de Lisboa
***     Instituto Superior Tecnico, Lisboa, Portugal
***      PGP Public Key available on my homepage
*** Key fingerprint = 0C 0A 25 58 46 CF 14 99  CF 9C AF 9E 10 02 BB 2A

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