Emotional vs. Rational Mind States, Part II



The notion of free will as ‘choice by conscious consent’ of only one out of several appropriate adaptive responses being considered depends largely on the emotional substratum underlying the contingency being resolved, for emotions do not have an independent existence and man is him and his existential circumstance. When human behavior is now seen from the new perspective of a brain dynamic system trying to actively anticipate and cope with the ever changing realities of his internal, body proper milieu and the external environment, neuro-philosophy has to change gears and reexamine its abstract foundations. Accordingly, man can no longer be considered a passive entity reacting to new and old challenges according to an axiology based on available rational judgments in defense of self interests or a reasoned greater good. The only other option being an unconsciously driven irrational ‘choice’ of emotional activity, usually of negative consequences. This old view is consonant with a static Platonic view of existential reality.
In the new dynamic approach the distinction between a rational and an emotional component becomes blurred in the decision-making process where a continuous and complex global interactive cooperation among various brain structures creates self-adjusting probable adaptive alternatives to choose from; as if the intention to adaptively execute an effective neuro-humoral-musculo-skeletal action plan is only awaiting in a cortical phase space attractor to be consciously consented to. The emotional experience concomitant to the execution of all action plans plays a significant role in the final free will consent to execute an intentional behavior. We no longer need to put together/assemble in haste an adequate solution in response to a sudden unexpected environmental challenge, but only to release one of several we have previously rehearsed and now consent to in harmony with our mental well being.
Darwin’s early speculation about animal behavior, suggesting now that human facial expressions allows an observer to reliably mind-read his accompanying emotional mind state is now explained on the basis of the observer’s own experience of the same emotional state being explained by measuring the fMRI activity of the associated mirror neurons in pre-motor areas of both observer and observed. This particular phase synchronization between both neocortical loci of active mirror neurons is what may give the clue about the interactive relationship of intentionality and emotions. It still remains unclear –for the undersigned- how positive emotions may relate to more errors in rational judgments, an experimental surprise of sorts. How may all these factors be part of a complex neurodynamic, autogenic, self-organizing chaos activity will be briefly examined to gain an insight into what the optimal equilibrium should exist between the cooperative, global interactions of a goal-directed visceral (limbic) brain compartment I, the perceptual right hemisphere compartment II, the rational left hemisphere compartment III and an allegedly disorganized random noise background, i.e., between the biologic, psychic and social aspects of brain representations of existential reality and the random disorder of mental illness. It is to be noted the important role pre-motor cortical attractors (site of coordinated prefab action plans) play as seen in the REM state dream during which the motor neuron pools are inhibited from executing such ‘coordinated’ responses.



Emotions are best understood not as the opposite of reasoned behavior but as their necessary complement. There are no emotionally neutral rational behaviors. We have discussed elsewhere how the non-linear, asymmetric, acausal Kantian world of ‘chaotic’ sensations entering (via sense receptors) the right brain hemisphere (compartment II) are required to be linearized to be subsequently processed in our innate left hemispheric (compartment III) language processor machinery after being first scrutinized for information content on possible threats to the biological integrity of the subject by the amygdaloid complex (for genetic relevance) and hippocampus (for context analysis). According to the classical platitudes, the gross sensory input from environmental objects and events was funneled by specialized receptors into memory compartments with idealized copies of the same input (intellect) to extract their rational meaning to the body economy. In the dynamic view, the intellect continuously updates, modifies and reviews sensory input representations and the organism’s motor resources to cope with meaningful changes in sensory input or motor capacity to cope with them in the environmental niche. The amygdaloid complex and hippocampus dealt with familiar situations at unconscious and subconscious levels respectively whereas novel contingencies arising from internal body proper, external environment or modified memories required accessing the language machinery to find meaning of the novelty by inductive or deductive logic strategies that now require new interpretations of brain function, especially when the resulting co-generation of language and thought induced the state of self-consciousness. Because existential reality is in the brain (no brain, no reported or measured reality!) and is also the result of a global interaction between billions of neurons actively engaged in a self-organizing, non-linear dynamic activity, an operational understanding of brain dynamics has to be recast within the context of an underlying non-linear, quasi-deterministic, probabilistic dynamic system; a quantum–based theory whose predictive, anticipatory value has been so useful to modern science methodology as well. Anticipation and evaluation of the unknown stimulus and the motor resources available to adaptively respond are now probabilities available to man to fashion his action plan intention. Way back in the beginning of the 13th century, St. Thomas Aquinas (Summa Theologica) had already identified intentionality as a pre-existing action plan, goal-directed activity to solve a problem. The modern dynamic equivalent is the pre-motor cortical attractor where ‘free will’ consents to one of several available action plan alternatives, that which, in addition, are consistent with the musculo-skeletal and glandular resources AND the psychic well being of the responder. It is of interest that, when we can afford waiting for a solution, we dream almost exclusively about the things that please us or generate fears (see Anna Freud) except that our dream ‘solutions’ are not effective or coordinated because we have actually inhibited our motor cortex from activating our musculo-skeletal and glandular resources into action. Are dreams illogical even when we experience the qualia of fear or pleasure? We have to realize that the truth value solutions of the consciously rational logic and the subconsciously emotional ‘logic’ behind the biological and the psycho-social considerations are competing for primacy as witnessed in heroic or altruistic acts ‘contra natura’ or self interest. Do we consciously will the intention towards the efficiency of the end result or the joyful consequences of the action, the means or the ends? Which of the competing forces prevail? Can they cooperate? If so, at what price? Do we need to distinguish between free choice by consent and intentionality or as Dr. W. Freeman puts it “Whether intention of the end is the same act as the volition of the means?” Is there a logic to emotional behavior?
These are difficult questions to answer except when we accept the premise that emotions, like colors, have no independent existence and need to be embodied in a person, like colors in an object. They are not neutral, they are an inseparable part and parcel of an ongoing execution of behavior being enacted or being considered for future action. In this respect the physical display of ‘anger’ (hissing, pupil dilatation, posture, hair erection, etc.) by a cat after electrode stimulation of the hypothalamus, i.e., ‘sham rage’, may not qualify as an emotion absent the qualia that normally accompanies such body language expression. Yet, recent experiments show how artificial emotional embodiment induce the qualia feeling in the subject? It may be appropriate, at this juncture, to limit the use of the term qualia to situations where no chemical/physical stimulus is causally identified. Thus the pleasure of a chocolate candy is different from a feeling of love unless we posit that ALL emotions experienced originate from the initial action of brain chemicals. The same situation applies to the measured changes in the parameters that usually accompany excitatory emotions after experimentally injecting adrenaline into a subject (e.g., increased pulse, respiratory and heart rate), These subjects did not consistently experience an excitatory qualia as reported, (Guyton’s Text on Medical Physiology, see also contrasting views of W. Cannon & W. James). Yet we all have read about the reports on qualia experienced by psychedelic drug consumers. Just how do we answer the causality question about whether we fight because we are angry or do we get angry because we fight? Being aware of our species limitation in the resolution of perceptual and conceptual complexities, we find it again necessary to invoke cocausality or cogeneration until a credible distinction in their generation is independently proven. This we did when handling the enigma on the reciprocal causality generation of language and thought. If we accept the premise that neocortical attractors in premotor phase space contain both the logical and the emotional qualia concomitants dynamically interwoven into one continuously updated whole package, then the reliable distinction may not be now a priority to precise. This distinction did not stop Fodor from elaborating his successful model of ‘propositional attitudes’, a follow-up on Franz Brentano’s late 19th century suggestion about how brain neuronal networks may generate ‘intentions’. Unfortunately, we may be able to gain reliable information about the emotional ‘attitude’ (physiological measurements, hormone levels, fMRI imaging, overt behavior, etc.) but not about the rational ‘proposition’ (musculo-skeletal and neuro-humoral readiness/functionality to deliver a required motor response) on which the intended action rests. A free will choice has both emotional and rational components intertwined as part of a given available attractor. What aspect should prevail in the final choice depends on the individualized circumstance of the subject, e.g., present challenge, education, health, previous experiences, faith, etc. Sometimes we will the result but postpone the intention to execute the action plan or viceverse. The importance of this distinction is of the essence when assigning responsibility for punishable acts; e.g., was the result intended (criminal act) or due to negligence in the execution of a different intention (tortious action)? But, are we free to form intentions or are they predetermined by forces beyond our control to guide? Enter 21st century dissection of chaos theory, non-linear dynamics and quantum theory and their relevance and impact on the human species freedom to choose, regardless of the emotional or rational consequences of the choice to act. Are we prisoners of an inexorable evolutionary process or do we have freedom to counter, guide and control such natural pressures?

The first consideration that comes to mind is the overwhelming complexity attending even simple motions like voluntarily reaching for a cup of coffee on the table or involuntarily withdrawing our finger away from a hot stove when cooking. When we differentially dissect out the linear sequence of events from the neuronal motor pool to the effector muscles contracting we realize that we cannot consciously will the flexor or extensor contraction of each sequence of muscles participating, if we did the coffee will be cold or the finger will be burnt! This self-evident observation suggests that we are consciously choosing an appropriate response from several probable action plans available in the pre-motor cortical attractor phase space. We thus conclude that the speed of the response cannot always be explained as controlled exclusively by intervening synaptic delays. More impressive is observing a fully unconscious child’s precision in slapping a mosquito walking on his left cheek while fully asleep! In the first case both unconscious genetic and subconscious memetic mechanisms participate under normal conditions unless, e.g., the coffee was placed on a rotating table at varying speeds and we need to consciously calculate the speed of rotation in this novel situation. The second example dissects out the exclusive, genetically determined unconscious, albeit complex, state in defense of biological integrity from the joint participation of genetic and memory-based mechanisms operating at subconscious levels; except when the table is rotating requiring then conscious participation. Either way, unconscious or subconscious, experience tells us we can still freely choose a different action plan, e.g., I let my finger get burnt to prove a point! The examples chosen help us differentiate random from complex but purposeful chaotic order and the self-organizing brain activity to anticipate environmental contingencies in the elaboration of probable solutions ready to be enacted when freely willed into action. The underlying chaos order and non-linear dynamics of causality generating cortical attractors of probable solutions as monitored in EEG, PET Scans and fMRI of human brains may be adequately explained by a quantum dynamics model, a probability calculus in itself, as discussed throughout the preceding chapters. In Volume I, “Neurophilosophy of Consciousness, a Biopsychosocial Model.” we outlined the basic notions on how objects and events in the environmental niche got filtered, modified and transformed into short term working memory and then consolidated into permanent neuronal representations as idealized forms useful in the classification of future sensory encounters by comparison, cross correlations, and their continuous subsequent modifications by assignment of new Hebbian synaptic weights where visceral and cortical forebrain inputs elaborated the relevant dynamic perceptual-conceptual hybrid as fashioned by the emotional quale experience attending each modification. The possibility of creating probable future states made it easier to review, faster to implement and least likely to include errors, especially in the matching of adaptive efficacy with a positive valence emotional mental state, both immanent and transcendental. We prefer to consider the emotional mental state that prevails after the execution of an action plan consented to as being constantly modified to suit the details of the neuro-humoral (e.g., hypothalamus) and/or musculo-skeletal system ongoing activation sequence; neither as previously motivating the choice of action to implement (Walter Cannon response) nor the resultant of the completed action plan (William James).

This way, with our BPS model, it became easier and more credible to understand how intentional acts in potency are the possible result of the previous elaboration of continuously updated dynamic action plans that take into consideration the biologic, psychic and social aspects of the human brain decision-making process by continuously evaluating the hierarchical value of needs and conveniences in every stage of the decision-making sequential process, including the current state of cardio-respiratory, metabolic and endocrine support systems, musculo-skeletal postural stance in relation to the intended action, etc., all while also taking account of the perceptual and conceptual species limitations. Thus the need for a dynamic, hybrid epistemontological model to bring together the incomplete ontological-perceptual measurements and the incomplete epistemological inferences into an indelible unit whole. See “Explaining the BPS Model of Brain Dynamics.” above and Volume II, “An Epistemontological View of Reality”.

Contrary to the analysis by Dr. Walter Freeman, in our opinion all human behaviors consciously intended ultimately require a self-conscious realization that it is ‘I’ who is consenting to and intending to implement one of various probable action plan alternatives in pre-motor neocortical attractor phase space. In the absence of an original stimulus input triggered or originating from either the genes, memory data base, internal milieu interoceptors, environmental exteroreceptor or propioceptor activation, it is difficult to conceive of a deterministic emergence of an autogenous self-organizing, probable response to…..what?? What is the goal that induced the ‘goal directed’ adaptive response? E.g., in the absence of a previous visual receptor knowledge, what meaningful visual feature was detected by a particular retinal receptor cell causing me to send/receive advanced/retarded waves to the feature and thus become activated into relaying information specifically from optic nerve to superior colliculus à thalamic relay nuclei à primary visual cortex à association cortex à neocortex frontal lobes àfrontal lobes (where semantic, axiological concepts are synthesized and topographically mapped) à pre-motor cortex, if such feature is originally meaningless to me? This is the main reason why we cannot share the same enthusiasm for Freeman’s limbic role as a central processing unit as we did in the past when we posited the perisylvian shores surrounding that sulcus indentation as the hub where self consciousness arises based on such quantum wavicles interaction (See discussion on advanced/retarded waves, etc. on “Explaining the BPS Model of Brain Dynamics.”)? Conceptually it looks attractive but an ‘idle curiosity’ search in the absence of a convincing reason or motivation to search for stimuli in a safe environment is a soft sell unless previous hints/suspicions of unidentified probable dangers as monitored by previous sensory detection justifies it. Sorry for the existential accent that makes me feel like Sancho Panza talking to Don Quixote. Admittedly, the theory is so attractive that I still tentatively endorse it …until more data is available on that exclusive interpretation.

There is no doubt about the important location of the perysylvian sulcus surrounding the Sylvian fissure, a cortical geographic locus so strategically located where so many important reciprocal inputs/output move to and fro the neocortex, visceral insula, hippocampus, cyngulum, entorhinal cortex, and especially the tempo-parietal angular gyrus where practically all sensory inputs converge and eventually connect to Broca’s area. The nested, multisensory loops are diagnostic of the crucial role they probably play in integrating perceptual, conceptual and emotional inputs into a hybrid rational-emotional and sensorimotor unit as discussed. But, to define perception as a form of intentional action originating in the limbic system, may be premature. Just because all roads (primary sensory areas, audio-visual, somatic, visceral) go and return from Rome (entorhinal cortex) is not necessarily a proof that, because they share reciprocal information, all decisions are made in Rome, the limbic system or, as we once perhaps wrongly suggested, in the amygdaloidal complex in the perisylvian sulcus when influenced by the rich connections between the hippocampus short term memory database and the entorhinal cortex, both actively dealing with quotidian, dynamic, online fluxes of information. From an experimental perspective, and due to our poor temporal sensory resolution of linear (flicker fusion frequencies) or cyclic (feed back, feedforward) sequences, it is safer to tentatively assume cocausality than to commit to a directional, linear sequence vector of causality.
Likewise, it makes sense to tentatively assume the presence of a verifiable chemical or an electromagnetic mediation in the direct transmission of information to receptors, effectors or associated networks. This is true for neurotransmitters, neuromodulators, neurohormones or radiation as efficient producers of reproducible motor responses.
However, this is not what happens when the direct or delayed motor response is accompanied by an evolving quale like pain, anger, love, happiness, fear, etc. as is the case about neuroamines and neuropeptide modulators from the brain stem reticular grey matter where they receive and send global, coordinating, competing and mostly inhibitory inputs. How may opposing/contrasting effects like the global histamine alerts or serotonin sleep; pain induction or endorphin pain relief; vasopressin aggression or oxytocin pacification; epinephrine acceleration or acetylcholine deceleration, etc. induce emotional qualia is not known except for their functional central core distribution suggesting a dynamic cooperative/integral involvement in its genesis. The adrenal neurohormones role in the emotional readiness for a defensive action or escape from nociceptive objects/events (Cannon response) is better understood. However they all have one thing in common, they are global responses consciously experienced and neither restricted to a previous decision to act (W. James) nor after the act (Cannon), it is an evolving, integrated synthesis format, coded and continuously updated (not unlike propioceptive loops) for future probable enactment and dynamically stored in premotor neocortical attractors awaiting for mobilization orders.
Observing the complex dynamics of brain functioning as evidenced by electroencephalography measurements gives us two immediate choices, either we are witnessing random disorder or the changing scenery of complex, chaotic order. To the extent that they obviously seem to represent the multiplicity of many discontinuous local functional states being bound/integrated into higher brain states, a global manifestation at each instant in time, we choose the complex chaos kind of order as better fitting. Knowing the limited combinatorial resolution of the human brain, it is not warranted to describe such activity as non-causal or devoid of a sequential transmission pattern. This is not to say they are continuous and stable. In fact they experience rapid (subsecond) time range and major variations in state as observed in the recorded electrical activity landscape, e.g., the transition from the wakeful to the sleep state. Every landscape represents a change in the spatial loci of neuronal network activity embodying different functions. Each component of a stream of consciousness either gets assembled in every step during its elaboration or gets rehearsed for its adequacy including the emotional concomittants. This is reminiscent of language parsing in search of the acceptable syntax best balancing the need for adaptive communication efficacy and emotional feeling of well being with the result. There are now existing efforts to simulate these microstates in computers. In our opinion, the global spatio-temporal macro pattern suggesting a chaotic cooperative state of affairs should not exclude the possibility of additional cooperation by synaptic and micro level phase coupling of oscillators inducing synchrony. How may such fleeting organization become unstable and undergo a transition into another global macro state encompassing both hemispheres and allegedly generating self consciousness as a dynamic operator is not clear.

Summary and Conclusions.

The neurodynamics of cortical attractor theory as a novel conceptual framework of brain dynamics need not imply a self-organizing acausal machinery in the form of a dynamic operator of sorts. The participation of garden variety synaptic transmission, neuromodulators and neurohormones, all laboring in cooperation with electromagnetic wavicles, give rise to a headward vector of self-organized integrated action that constrains the activity of the participating neuron units into creating a macro pattern of organized activity from their constituent micro elements. Somehow this integrated ‘organization’ thus created is destabilized -with the arrival of a new sensory , memory, genetic or emotional form of stimulus- into subsequent new states of activity delineating the trajectory sequence of the response, the global state response. The ‘somehow’ explanation is usually lightly dismissed as equivalent to the generation of a big storm from a few droplets of water… but the analogy is incomplete because whereas the droplets –under the existing natural circumstances- had no choice but to evolve in strict adherence to nature’s laws to remove the excess heat to another geographical location in need of it. In the human case, the evolved probable solution into a cortical attractor had to be consented to by the free will of the subject, a very different situation. Normally we would consent to the most probable adaptive solution we could find in the neocortical premotor attractor basin landscape and emotionally live with at the end. But, we also have choices not to because of special individualized circumstances, like sacrifice, mental disease, personal gain, etc. There exists a hierarchy of values that influence the final enactment of the most probable adaptive solution as discussed in the BPS Model; from the basic unconscious level preservation of biological integrity and species viability, operating at the genetic level, to the psychic well being qualia based on previous memetic experience subconsciously compared with (memetic data bases) associated with the choice and optimization of conscious social conviviality with those others sharing the environmental niche. The unity of intentional action must bring all three BPS factors to an acceptable equilibrium state as discussed. The emergence of self consciousness from mere subconscious awareness would only be necessary when the new perceptual or conceptual stimulus may represent a psychosocial novelty challenge requiring assigning a meaning to it. In this case The subconscious must access the consumer higher level brain resourcess in the form of language faculty parsing to extract its meaning and co-generating language and thought in the process. During the elaboration of an attractor probability in this case, the syntax structure is generated in the form of preceding ‘propositional attitudes’ a la Fodor, thus incorporating the emotional moiety in the process. The correlation of emotions with chaotic, uncontrolled activity is, besides being an improper term (chaos is complex control) is unwarranted because just as color has not an independent existence from the object, neither do emotions exist in the absence of an appropriate circumstance. Neither color nor emotions are primary attributes.


Brentano FC (1889) The Origin of our Knowledge of Right and Wrong. Chisolm RM and
Schneewind EH (trans.). New York: Humanities Press (1969).

Clark RE, Squire LR (1998) Classical conditioning and brain systems: The role of awareness.
Science 280: 77-81.

Damasio AR (1994) Descartes’ error: emotion, reason, and the human brain. New York: Putnam.
Darwin C (1872) The Expression of Emotion in Man and Animals. London: Murray.

de la Sierra, Angell O. (1998) Vol. I,II,III Neurophilosophy of Consciousness Lulu Press

Eleftherion BE (ed.) (1972) The Neurobiology of the Amygdala. New York: Plenum Press.

Freeman, WJ (1992) Tutorial in Neurobiology: From Single Neurons to Brain Chaos.
International Journal of Bifurcation and Chaos 2: 451-482.

Dr. Angell O. de la Sierra, Esq. Deltona, Florida 2009.

About Dr.d

See CV, family & publications at: http://delaSierra-Sheffer.net/
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