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On the Abilities of Unconscious Freudian Motivational Drives to Evoke Conscious Emotions


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Human beings use conscious emotions to direct their behaviors. There is some agreement in the scientific community that unconscious motivations are able to evoke conscious emotions. This manuscript focuses on Freudian motivational drives as inductors for unconscious motivation, and also on Panksepp’s framework of affective neuroscience for describing the generation of emotions. Recently, it has been suggested that imperative motor factors of Freudian drives (i.e., the hormones ghrelin, testosterone, angiotensin II and adenosine) have the ability to activate both a drive-specific brain area and brain areas of the SEEKING command system. In fact, this manuscript contends that all imperative motor factors have typical SEEKING targets (i.e., so-called receptors) in the brain areas of both nucleus accumbens and lateral hypothalamus. In addition, all imperative motor factors are able to target the central amygdala directly, a brain area classified by Panksepp as the instinctual part of the FEAR command system. Another point of interest may be the evaluation that imperative motor factors of the sexual drive, hunger and thirst can directly activate the RAGE command system by targeting the medial amygdala. Surprisingly, all imperative motor factors are able to modulate Panksepp’s granddaddy mechanism, i.e., to stimulate all seven command systems via the lateral hypothalamus. Orexinergic neurons exclusively located in the lateral hypothalamus have targets for imperative motor factors and project axons to characteristic brain areas of all seven command systems. From the fact that the imperative motor factors of the sexual drive and hunger act in an excitatory manner on orexinergic neurons whereas those of thirst and sleep inhibit such neurons, temporary termination of hunger by thirst may be understood as a very simple example of a co-regulation of Freudian drives. The author wishes to note that there are motivational drives other than the ones described by Freud. Bowlby was obviously the first in describing such drives, and Bowlbyian drive activities cannot be explained with the intermediacy of imperative motor factors. Nevertheless, the ignorance of the magnificent importance of imperative motor factors must be discarded.
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fpsyg-10-00470 March 5, 2019 Time: 18:25 # 1
published: 07 March 2019
doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00470
Edited by:
Simon Boag,
Macquarie University, Australia
Reviewed by:
Patrick Connolly,
Hong Kong Shue Yan University,
Hong Kong
Petar Radoev Dimkov,
South-West University “Neofit Rilski”,
Michael Kirsch
Specialty section:
This article was submitted to
and Neuropsychoanalysis,
a section of the journal
Frontiers in Psychology
Received: 06 December 2018
Accepted: 18 February 2019
Published: 07 March 2019
Kirsch M (2019) On the Abilities
of Unconscious Freudian Motivational
Drives to Evoke Conscious Emotions.
Front. Psychol. 10:470.
doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00470
On the Abilities of Unconscious
Freudian Motivational Drives to
Evoke Conscious Emotions
Michael Kirsch*
Institute of Physiological Chemistry, Essen University Hospital, Essen, Germany
Human beings use conscious emotions to direct their behaviors. There is some
agreement in the scientific community that unconscious motivations are able to evoke
conscious emotions. This manuscript focuses on Freudian motivational drives as
inductors for unconscious motivation, and also on Panksepp’s framework of affective
neuroscience for describing the generation of emotions. Recently, it has been suggested
that imperative motor factors of Freudian drives (i.e., the hormones ghrelin, testosterone,
angiotensin II and adenosine) have the ability to activate both a drive-specific brain area
and brain areas of the SEEKING command system. In fact, this manuscript contends
that all imperative motor factors have typical SEEKING targets (i.e., so-called receptors)
in the brain areas of both nucleus accumbens and lateral hypothalamus. In addition,
all imperative motor factors are able to target the central amygdala directly, a brain
area classified by Panksepp as the instinctual part of the FEAR command system.
Another point of interest may be the evaluation that imperative motor factors of the
sexual drive, hunger and thirst can directly activate the RAGE command system by
targeting the medial amygdala. Surprisingly, all imperative motor factors are able to
modulate Panksepp’s granddaddy mechanism, i.e., to stimulate all seven command
systems via the lateral hypothalamus. Orexinergic neurons exclusively located in the
lateral hypothalamus have targets for imperative motor factors and project axons to
characteristic brain areas of all seven command systems. From the fact that the
imperative motor factors of the sexual drive and hunger act in an excitatory manner on
orexinergic neurons whereas those of thirst and sleep inhibit such neurons, temporary
termination of hunger by thirst may be understood as a very simple example of a co-
regulation of Freudian drives. The author wishes to note that there are motivational drives
other than the ones described by Freud. Bowlby was obviously the first in describing
such drives, and Bowlbyian drive activities cannot be explained with the intermediacy of
imperative motor factors. Nevertheless, the ignorance of the magnificent importance of
imperative motor factors must be discarded.
Keywords: SEEKING, affective neuroscience, orexin, Bowlbyian drive, unconscious
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Kirsch The Capabilities of Imperative Motor Factors
At present, any consensus on a single unitary definition of the
construct of motivation, derived from the Latin words movere
and motivus (Gilbert, 2015;Strombach et al., 2016), is lacking
in the psychological community (Gneezy et al., 2011). Panksepp
noted that a motivation can be descripted as a process, “in which
a bodily need is subserved by a behavior” in contrast to emotions
where no bodily need is evident” (Panksepp, 1998, p. 228). Thus,
motivation can therefore be understood as an active movement
of an individual initiated by a stimulus as a driving force. Such
a view intrinsically predicts that the activity of a (motivational)
drive will evoke a motivation. In the past, various classic
psychological drive concepts – Hull’s drive reduction theory
(Hull, 1943), Lorenz’s hydraulic conception of drive (Lorenz and
Leyhausen, 1973), Tinbergen’s hierarchical organization of circuit
nodes (Tinbergen, 1950) and Freud’s theory of motivational
drives (Freud, 1905, 1915a,b,c) – were developed in order to
explain drive-dependent motivations. It should be noted that (at
present) a drive cannot be experimentally distinguished from a
corresponding motivation when a (Freudian) drive acts as the
driving force for this motivation. Adolphs and Anderson noted
The difference between driveand motivationis more of an
operational and conceptual one than a biological one.” (Adolphs
and Anderson, 2018, p. 148). In the present manuscript the
construct of motivation will be nevertheless advocated but the
author will distinguish metabolic-deficit-dependent motivations
and metabolic-deficit-independent ones. Remarkably, Freud
[a man of vast reading (Solomon, 1974)] obviously picked-
up the idea of “chemical messengers”, with the first hormone
identified in 1902 (Bayliss and Starling, 1902). Freud respected
the intermediacy of hormones in his motivational drive theory
with its known four elements somatic source, aim, object and
imperative motor factor (i.e., hormones) (Freud, 1905, 1915a).
Very unfortunately, persistent mistranslation of the German
nouns Drang (correctly, in the Freudian sense: imperative motor
factor) as “motor factor,Trieb (correctly: drive) as “instinct” and
Trieblehre (correctly in the Freudian sense: theory of motivational
drives) as “theory of instincts” have given rise to a variety of
misunderstandings, especially in those cases where Freud used
the German word ‘Instinkt’ which was also (correctly) translated
as instinct. For Freud instincts (‘Instinkte’) are “inherited mental
formations” (Freud, 1915c, p. 3017) whereas drives “represent an
instigation to mental activity” (Freud, 1926b, p. 4343; Holder,
1970, pp. 19). In 1923, Freud clarified that two types of Freudian
motivational drives are constituent elements of Eros: “According
to this view we have distinguish two classes of instincts, one of
which, the sexual instinct or Eros, is by far the more conspicuous
and accessible to study. It comprises not merely the uninhibited
sexual instinct proper and the instinctual impulses of an aim-
inhibited or sublimated nature derived from it, but also the self-
preservative instinct,. . .(Freud, 1923, p. 3974). Thus, according
to Freud, three motivational drives (sexual drive, thirst and
hunger) are constituent elements of Eros. In order to answer
Freud’s question of “What instincts should we suppose there
are, and how many?” (Freud, 1915a, p. 2961), we advocated
three criteria for identifying a Freudian motivational drive: an
imperative nature of the drive as a psychological criterion,
orchestration via the lateral hypothalamus as a neurobiological
cachet and a drive termination by means of the central release
of 5-hydroxytryptamine as a biochemical attribute (Kirsch and
Mertens, 2018). By using these criteria, we identified the sexual
drive, thirst, hunger (in line with Freud’s prediction) and sleep as
Freudian motivational drives with the corresponding imperative
motor factors testosterone, angiotensin II, ghrelin and adenosine.
These hormones address the frequently ignored problem of drive
specificity – “The ability to process and decidebetween the drives
might be lost if each drive is not also an independent generator.
In other words, we have to sustain drive-specificity...” (Wright
and Panksepp, 2012, p. 18) – because they can simultaneously
activate a drive-specific brain area and typical brain areas that are
responsible for seeking of resources (vide infra).
In contrast to motivations, a variety of very detailed
theories for describing emotions have been outlined so far,
i.e., the Appraisal Theory (Scherer, 1984, 2009;Lazarus, 1991),
Interoceptive Theories (Damasio, 1999;Craig, 2002;Damasio
and Carvalho, 2013), Constructed Emotion Theory (Feldman
Barrett, 2017), Theory of Emotion (Rolls, 1999), Higher-Order
Theory of Emotion (LeDoux and Brown, 2017) and Emotion
Systems (Panksepp, 1998;Panksepp and Biven, 2012). The latter
framework should be attractive from the perspective of Freudian
motivational drives because of the fact that Panksepp’s theory
of affective neuroscience tends to emphasize motor-related
representations (i.e., drives) in the development of feelings.
Panksepp (Panksepp, 1998) classifies seven different types of
command systems that may (but do not necessarily have to)
evoke special behaviors, e.g., seeking for rewards/resources/sexual
partners, lust,caring and affection, loss and panic,rage,fear
and play. Special subcortical regions of the brain are involved
with the processing to the corresponding conscious emotions,
1,2which are classified as so-called command systems (labeled
(Panksepp, 1998, 2016, 2018;Watt and Panksepp, 2009;Zellner
et al., 2011;Solms and Panksepp, 2012;Wright and Panksepp,
2012;Panksepp and Yovell, 2014;Alcaro et al., 2017). Since
an activated SEEKING system constantly blends well with all
the other command systems by co-regulating them (Wright
and Panksepp, 2012), the generation of SEEKING activities
(according to Panksepp the SEEKING system is “the ‘granddaddy’
of all the emotional system.” (Panksepp and Biven, 2012, p. 86), are
of central importance in the development of conscious emotions.
1The description of the development of consciousness actually represents a
multifaceted problem (e.g., Solms, 1997, 2019;Dehaene et al., 2006). In the
present manuscript the author follows the view that core brainstem consciousness
is the primary type of consciousness, i.e., so-called affective consciousness
(Panksepp, 1998;Damasio, 2018). In any case (affective consciousness and
cortical ones), consciously experienced emotions emerged from preconscious
processing (Panksepp, 1998, p.34). The Global Neuronal Workspace Hypothesis
can distinguish between subliminal, preconscious and conscious processing
(Dehaene et al., 2006). Accordingly, a preconscious stimulus that is stored in a
so-called temporary preconscious buffer, might achieve conscious state once the
central workspace is released to the stimulus.
2A group of modern psychoanalysts has made a distinction between self-conscious
emotions and basic conscious emotions. Only the latter type is imbedded in
biological determined action tendencies and can therefore be described using
Panksepp’s Emotion Systems (Tracy et al., 2007;Schalkwijk, 2018).
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Kirsch The Capabilities of Imperative Motor Factors
Recently, we were able to contend the unexpected possibility
that the SEEKING system can be activated by the intermediary
action of Freudian imperative motor factors (Kirsch and Mertens,
2018). Since Freud explicitly noted that a motivational drive
has an unconscious nature: “I am in fact of the opinion that
the antithesis of conscious and unconscious is not applicable to
instincts. An instinct can never become an object of consciousness
only the idea that represents the instinct can.” (Freud, 1915c,
p. 3000) the question arose how an unconscious stimulus can
evoke a conscious sensation? From findings of our last work
it is possible to expand a fine idea introduced by Panksepp
et Biven (Table 1).
Thus, according to Panksepp, the intermediacy of
neuromodulators and/or classical neurotransmitters represents
a mandatory premise for consciousness.3Since it has been
mentioned that there are qualitative differences of the nervous
system between conscious and unconscious processes (Brakel
and Shervin, 2005) and because Freudian drives have an
unconscious nature (vide supra) and uses hormones as signal
transporters, the unconscious action of the Freudian drives
can be determined biochemically at the level of signaling
codes (Table 1).4For example, an imperative motor factor
generated outside the brain [e.g., stomach derived release of
ghrelin (Kojima et al., 1999;Stievenard et al., 2017)] cannot be
transformed to a neurotransmitter/neuromodulator (i.e., cannot
3Classical neurotransmitters are released from a special store (so-called synaptic
vesicles) into a synaptic cleft, an area between two neighboring synapses (called
referred to as the pre-synapse and post-synapse). The neurotransmitter signaling
is completed by occupying targets (so-called receptors) on the post-synapse.
Neuromodulators can be viewed as neurotransmitters of special sort because
they signal between neurons in a more diffuse fashion and typically modulate
the action of classical neurotransmitters by tuning the receptor affinities on
the post-synapse. In addition, some neuromodulators can evoke the release of
classical neurotransmitters on the pre-synapse (vide infra). The hormones of
interest (the advocated Freudian imperative motor factors) can (in contrast to
neurotransmitters and neuromodulators) be synthesized and released outside
the brain and communicate between two organs. After passing the blood brain
barrier they can induce the release of neurotransmitters and neuromodulators,
respectively, by occupying their targets (hormone receptors) on the pre-synapses.
A more detailed description of neuro-chemicals can be found in textbooks, e.g.,
(Nieuwenhuys, 1985;Webster and Stanford, 2001).
4Noticeably, the translation of Freud’s term “unbewusst” as “unconscious”
(instead of “subconscious”) confuses neuroscientists, since “unconscious” refers
in medicine to brain activities during senseless states. As a result, neuroscientists
tend to replace the term unconscious with either “not-conscious” or “non-
conscious”. Anderson and Adolphs (Adolphs and Anderson, 2018, p. 298) noted,
that the term unconscious is frequently used for unawareness of an external
stimulus at subliminal levels, e.g., (Shervin and Fritzler, 1968;Greenwald et al.,
1996). In contrast, by using an operating Freudian drive as a typical example of
unconsciousness, it can be assumed that an unconscious action requires an internal
stimulus –, and not an external one –, in order to initiate a mental process in a
subconscious manner (vide supra).
TABLE 1 | Types of chemical messenger codes.
Type of Unconscious Consciousa
Processing Freudian Drive AFFECTIVEaCOGNITIVEa
Signaling code Hormone codes Neuromodulator
aAccording to (Panksepp and Biven, 2012, p. 8).
be transformed to signals necessary to achieve consciousness)
as long as it circulates in the periphery. After passing the
blood-brain barrier, the imperative motor factor can now
induce the release of neurotransmitters/neuromodulators by
occupying its hormone receptors on various pre-synapses
in subcortical brain areas. This release of neuromodulators
or neurotransmitters represents – from the perspective
of the Global Neuronal Workspace Hypothesis (Dehaene
et al., 2006) – the provision of preconscious stimuli
that can (but do not necessarily have to) gain access to
conscious processing.
Unfortunately, the abilities of imperative motor factors to
address the subcortical brain in such a manner, was only
deconvolved for the brain areas of the SEEKING system (Kirsch
and Mertens, 2018). This option raises the question of whether
imperative motor factors have the ability to modulate activities
of other command systems, and – if so – the underlying
mechanisms would be of interest. This manuscript will report
on such totally underestimated capabilities, although they are
quite well evaluated.
The idea of making a direct connection between Freudian drives
via their imperative motor factors and Panksepp’s emotional
command systems intrinsically required one to locate targets
(i.e., so-called receptors) of these hormones at the brain areas of
interest (Table 2).
As expected from evaluations of our earlier manuscript
(Kirsch and Mertens, 2018), all imperative motor factors can
directly generate SEEKING activities because, in addition to
targets in their drive specific brain areas5, they all also have
anchorage grounds in both the lateral hypothalamus and the
nucleus accumbens (Table 2). The activation of neurons in
the latter area and also in the ventral tegmental area can
result in the release of the catecholamine dopamine (Naleid
et al., 2005;Abizaid et al., 2006;Jerlhag et al., 2007), and that
neuromodulator is a key intermediate in the activation of the
SEEKING system (Panksepp, 1998;Panksepp and Biven, 2012;
Watt, 2017).
Somewhat surprising was the evaluation that all imperative
motor factors have receptors in the central amygdala, a brain
area that was classified as a part of the FEAR command system
(Panksepp, 1998;Panksepp and Biven, 2012;Watt, 2017). Thus,
all imperative motor factors have direct access to both the
SEEKING and the FEAR command systems. Panksepp noted
that a variety of chemical messengers can activate the FEAR
system (Panksepp and Biven, 2012), with the result that the view
that imperative motor factors can provide a similar activation
5The drive specific brain areas are: arcuate nucleus (hunger); subfornical organ,
area postrema and organosum vasculosum of lamina terminalis (thirst); medial
preoptic area (sexual drive at least in rodents); tuberomammillary nucleus (sleep);
(Kirsch and Mertens, 2018).
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Kirsch The Capabilities of Imperative Motor Factors
TABLE 2 | Targets of imperative motor factors on brain areas of
command systems.
prototype and
brain areasa
Sexual drive
Angiotensin II
LH Reference 1 Reference 2 Reference 3 Reference 4
NAc Reference 5 Reference 6 Reference 7 Reference 8
VTA Reference 9 Reference 10 Reference 11
MeA Reference 12 Reference 13 Reference 14
CeA Reference 15 Reference 16 Reference 17 Reference 18
BLA Reference 19 Reference 20
VMH Reference 21 Reference 22
CoA Reference 23
BNST Reference 24
BNST Reference 24
AnT – – – References
11 and 17
CmT, DmT, PT Reference 25
aclassification according to Watt (Watt, 2017), AnT, anterior thalamus; BLA,
basolateral amygdala; BNST, bed nucleus of stria terminalis; CeA, central
amygdala; CmT, centromedian thalamus; CoA, cortical amygdala; DmT,
dorsomedial thalamus; LH, lateral hypothalamus; MeA, medial amygdala; NAc,
nucleus accumbens; PT, posterior thalamus; VMH, ventromedial hypothalamus;
VTA, ventral tegmental area. Reference 1, (Mitchell et al., 2001;Toshinai et al.,
2003); Reference 2, down-stream product of testosterone (Shughrue et al., 1997;
Muschkamp et al., 2007); Reference 3, (Yoshida et al., 2012); Reference 4,
(Svennigsson et al., 1997;Thakhar et al., 2002); Reference 5, (Egecioglu et al.,
2010); Reference 6, (Cunningham et al., 2012); Reference 7, (Jenkins et al., 1997;
Mendelsohn et al., 1984); Reference 8, (Svennigsson et al., 1997;Rosin et al.,
2003;Ferre et al., 2007); Reference 9, (Zigman et al., 2006); Reference 10, (Simerly
et al., 1990); Reference 11, (Svennigsson et al., 1997); Reference 12, (Alvarez-
Crespo et al., 2012); Reference 13, (Simerly et al., 1990;Cunningham et al., 2012;
He et al., 2013); Reference 14, (Lenkei et al., 1996); Reference 15, (Cruz et al.,
2013;Yoshimoto et al., 2017); Reference 16, (Simerly et al., 1990); Reference 17,
(Lenkei et al., 1996); Reference 18, (Goodman and Snyder, 1982); Reference 19,
(Alvarez-Crespo et al., 2012;Yoshimoto et al., 2017); Reference 20, (Svennigsson
et al., 1997;Rau et al., 2014, 2015;Simoes et al., 2016); Reference 21, (Zigman
et al., 2006); Reference 22, (Simerly et al., 1990;Cunningham et al., 2012;He
et al., 2013); Reference 23, (Simerly et al., 1990); Reference 24, (Cunningham et al.,
2012;He et al., 2013); Reference 25, (Mendelsohn et al., 1984;Lenkei et al., 1996).
is not in conflict with the theory of affective neuroscience. In
addition, Panksepp distinguished between conditional FEAR and
unconditional ones, stating “Therefore, while the central nucleus
of the amygdala is part of the unconditional (instinctual) FEAR
system, the other nuclei are not.” (Panksepp and Biven, 2012,
p. 196). Therefore, the action of the imperative motor factors on
the IN STINCTUAL FEAR system may represent a phylogenetic
old mechanism.6Of course, as most Freud followers would
6For instance, one may speculate that a thirsty rat that can activate the
INSTINCTUAL FEAR system via the intermediacy of angiotensin II, i.e., the
imperative motor factor of thirst, in order to “use” the corresponding emotion fear
to rule out the potential presence of a predator at its place of drinking, has an
advantage in the struggle for survival. In fact, there is general consensus that the
expect, Freud was aware of a link between his motivational
drives and fearful emotions: “So far we have had no occasion
to regard realistic anxiety in any different light from neurotic
anxiety. We know what the distinction is. A real danger is a
danger which threatens a person from an external object, and a
neurotic danger is one which threatens him from an instinctual
demand.” (Freud, 1926a, p. 4319). The fact that imperative
motor factors have direct access to the FEAR command system
by targeting the central amygdala may also be an interesting
finding for psychoanalysts of other schools because Bowlby
noted. “No CO NCEPT is more central to psychoanalytical theory
than the concept of anxiety. Yet it is one about which there is
little consensus of opinion, which accounts in no small measure
for the divisions between different schools of thought. Put briefly,
all analysts are agreed that anxiety cannot be explained simply
by reference to external threat: in some way processes usually
thought of as internal and instinctive seem to play a crucial role.
But how these inner forces are to be conceptualized and how
they give rise to anxiety has always been a puzzle.” (Bowlby,
1960). In summary, direct access of Freudian drives to the
FEAR command system is not in conflict with either the
theory of affective neuroscience or historical predictions by
leading psychoanalysts.
Of the other command systems, only RAGE can be addressed
via the medial amygdala by three imperative motor factors.
The failure of adenosine, i.e., the imperative motor factor of
sleep, to activate RAGE can be expected because ongoing rage is
obviously counterproductive for the onset of sleep, and therefore
such neurochemicals that can be elevated during RAGE (e.g.,
noradrenaline) are decreased during sleep and vice versa (Watson
et al., 2010;Panksepp and Biven, 2012).
Although there are (beyond any doubt) direct mechanisms
for the generation of command systems activities, their capability
is somewhat limited, as imperative motor factors cannot evoke
all types of emotion via that mechanism with the same level of
efficiency. Therefore, the question arose as to whether Freud’s
imperative motor factors can even do more than generate
SEEKING, FEAR and RAGE activities by occupying a receptor
in a typical brain region of these command systems.
Since all Freudian drives are orchestrated via the
lateral hypothalamus (vide supra), the precise targets of
imperative motor factors in this brain area have been
analyzed (Table 3).
This analysis contains two surprises. Firstly, attractive targets
for testosterone on orexinergic neurons are lacking in the lateral
hypothalamus (Table 3), although androgen receptors have been
detected in that area (Simerly et al., 1990). Beside testosterone,
its downstream product estradiol – the enzyme aromatase
amygdala conciliates survival-mediated behavior (LeDoux et al., 1988;Kapp et al.,
1990;Amaral et al., 1992;Fanselow, 1994;Davis, 2000;Lang and Bradley, 2018).
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Kirsch The Capabilities of Imperative Motor Factors
TABLE 3 | Targets for imperative motor factors of hunger, sexual drive, sleep and
thirst on orexinergic neurons located in the lateral hypothalamus.
motor factor
Action on OX neurons Reference
GHS-R/Ghrelin Excitatory Mitchell et al., 2001;
Toshinai et al., 2003
AR/Testosterone Excluded Simerly et al., 1990;
Muschkamp et al.,
ER/Estrogen Excitatory Shughrue et al., 1997;
Muschkamp et al.,
A1R/Adenosine Inhibitory Svennigsson et al.,
1997;Thakhar et al.,
AT1aR/Angiotensin II Inhibitory Yoshida et al., 2012
OX, orexinergic; GHS-R, growth hormone secretagogue receptor; AR, androgen
receptor; ER, estrogen receptor; A1R, adenosine receptor type 1; AT1AR,
angiotensin II receptor type 1A.
directly oxidizes testosterone into the estrogen derivative
estradiol (Fui et al., 2014) – is also important for male sexual
behavior (Cunningham et al., 2012), and estrogen receptors on
orexinergic neurons are present in the lateral hypothalamus.
The second surprise was the realization that receptors of all
four imperative motor factors modulate (in an inhibitory or
excitatory manner) the release of the neuromodulator orexin
(Table 3). In 1998, two research groups independently identified
peptides exclusively produced by neurons located in the lateral
hypothalamus (de Lecea et al., 1998;Sakurai et al., 1998). Most
scientific journals have now accepted the name “orexins” (instead
of the alternative designation “hypocretins”) for these peptides,
although their physiological actions are not limited to the
regulation of appetite (Li et al., 2014). Very interestingly, from
their location in the lateral hypothalamus, orexinergic neurons
project axons to brain areas that are important for the seven
command systems of affective neuroscience. In detail, orexinergic
neurons project to brain areas related to SEEKING [ventral
tegmental area (Marcus et al., 2001;Uramura et al., 2001;
Korotkova et al., 2003;Borgland et al., 2008;Muschkamp
et al., 2014) and nucleus accumbens (Trivedi et al., 1998;
Marcus et al., 2001;Smith et al., 2002;Yang and Ferguson,
2003)], RAGE [medial amygdala (Trivedi et al., 1998;Marcus
et al., 2001) and bed nucleus of stria terminalis (Trivedi
et al., 1998;Conrad et al., 2012;Lungwitz et al., 2012)],
FEAR [central amygdala (Marcus et al., 2001;Cluderay et al.,
2002;Bisetti et al., 2006) and basolateral amygdala (Arendt
et al., 2014)], LUST [ventromedial hypothalamus (Muroya et al.,
2004)], CARE [ventral periaqueductal gray matter (Li et al.,
2014)], PANIC [midline thalamic nuclei (Bayer et al., 2002;
Ishibashi et al., 2005), paraventricular thalamus (a midline
thalamic structure) (Peyron et al., 1998;Marcus et al., 2001;
Huang et al., 2006;Li et al., 2011) and mediodorsal thalamus
(Govindaiah and Cox, 2006)] and finally PLAY [parafascicular
nucleus (Govindaiah and Cox, 2006)]. The postsynaptic action
of orexin is generally an excitatory one on other neurons
and therefore leads to the release of a variety of either
neurotransmitters or neuromodulators. For example, the release
of orexin in the ventral tegmental area stimulates dopaminergic
(Marcus et al., 2001;Uramura et al., 2001;Korotkova et al.,
2003;Muschkamp et al., 2014) as well as non-dopaminergic
neurons (Korotkova et al., 2003;Borgland et al., 2008). Some
of the aforementioned brain areas have projections to the
lateral hypothalamus, thereby offering an afferent regulation of
orexinergic neurons (as a kind of a feedback mechanism7).
For instance, neurons of the medial amygdala (RAGE) project
to orexinergic neurons of the lateral hypothalamus (James
et al., 2017). However, knowledge of these afferent projections
is currently too low to permit detailed insight into such
feedback mechanisms.
The fact that orexinergic neurons of the lateral hypothalamus
project to brain areas of all command systems supports
Panksepp’s postulation that the SEEKING system, the
lateral hypothalamus having been classified as a part of this
command system (Watt, 2017), is ”the ‘granddaddy’ of all
the emotional system.” (Panksepp and Biven, 2012, p. 86).
Since the author is unaware whether other neurons can
act in a similar manner (but, of course, cannot exclude
such a possibility with certainty), and because the activity
of orexinergic neurons is under the control of Freud’s
imperative motor factors (Table 2), it is concluded that
the activity of the granddaddy mechanism, i.e., to evoke
emotions via generation of SEEKING-dependent command
system activities, can be under the control of Freudian
motivational drives.8
It is well known that different motivations can co-regulate
(conflict or support) each other (Huang and Bargh, 2014;
Gilbert, 2015). Such a co-regulation of Freudian drives can be
understood at a biomolecular level with the aid of Table 3
because hunger and the sexual drive can stimulate command
systems activities by enhancing orexin-dependent networking,
whereas thirst and sleep can operate oppositely. The sense of
this mechanism should be illustrated by answering the question
what drive must a hungry and thirsty person firstly satisfied?
Mahatma Gandhi survived (three times) 21 days of complete
starvation (Chettiar, 1943;Gandhi, 1948) but an average human
being can probably survive without water for about only a
few days (Kottusch et al., 2009). Thus, from a perspective of
survival, the satisfaction of thirst is the more important one,
and the thirst drive is able to counteract the claim of the
hunger drive by downregulating orexin-dependent activation of
the seven command systems. In fact, there is data to support
the assertion that the claim of thirst is stronger and more stable
over the day compared to the claim of hunger (Mattes, 2010).
Temporary termination of the claim of the hunger drive by thirst
is reminiscent of the phenomenon of a Freudian repression “ the
impulse then passes into the state of ‘repression’ [Verdrängung].
(Freud, 1915b, p. 2977), but albeit the expressed example is far
7In order to discard the view that SEEKING exclusively instructs the other
command systems, it seems necessary to demonstrate communication possibilities
from the other command systems to SEEKING.
8By expanding Panksepp’s analogy of “granddaddy” the writer of this manuscript
comes to the end that the granddaddy lies (sometimes) on Freud’s couch.
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Kirsch The Capabilities of Imperative Motor Factors
too simple for describing such a complex psychological entity.9
Thus, the importance of the mechanism of drive co-regulation
via orexin-mediated networking for psychological entities cannot
be classified at present.10
Although the indirect pathway – i.e., modulation of orexin-
dependent networking by targeting the lateral hypothalamus
(Table 3) – expands the capabilities of imperative motor factors,
they are unable to cover all possible types of motivations and
(corresponding) emotions. A Freudian motivational drive is
down-regulated by the cerebral release of 5-hydroxytryptamine
(vide supra). Therefore, drives and corresponding motivations
that would require the intermediacy of 5-hydroxytryptamine
for their processing cannot be regarded as being dependent
9One reviewer noted: “In Freudian thinking, repression due to conflict happens
because the action associated with the drive is threatening to the ego, which must
refer to a threat of the ‘self’-organization of the mind, rather than due to a competing
demand that is more important.
10Noticeably, Freud expanded the construct of ’repression’ to affective emotions:
In the first place,it may happen that an affective or emotional impulse is perceived
but misconstrued. Owing to the repression of its proper representative it has been
forced to become connected with another idea, and is now regarded by consciousness
as the manifestation of that idea. If we restore the true connection, we call the
original affective impulse an ’unconscious’ one. Yet its affect was never unconscious;
all that had happened was that the idea had undergone repression.” (Freud, 1915c,
p. 3001). Here, Freud’s standing “regarded by consciousness as the manifestation
of that idea” may be explained by a (partly) cortical processing and in such a
case the occurrence of ’repression’ cannot be solely explained by orexin-dependent
subcortical networking.
FIGURE 1 | Proposed action of Freudian drive-dependent generation of
upon Freudian motivational drives. This gives rise to the
puzzler: Do such drives really exist, and where are they
operating in psychological situations? Most surprisingly, an
entirely unexpected answer is offered by Bowlby’s attachment
theory (Bowlby, 1960, 1973). The unconscious motivation of an
infant to stay in close proximity to its care provider becomes
measureable by expanding the distance between mother and
infant for significant periods of time, resulting in distress,
anxiety and fear in the infant (Bowlby, 1973). Bowlby mentioned
that a drive (even suggested by Freud) is responsible for this
motivation of the infant: “Our most conservative conclusion is
that Freud was not wholly satisfied with his earlier accounts
[i.e., theory of motivational drives]. A more radical one is that,
toward the end of his life and imbued with a newly-found
but vivid appreciation of the central importance of the child’s
tie to his mother, Freud was not only moving away from the
theory of Secondary Drive [i.e., motivational Freudian drive] but
developing the notion that special drives built into the infant
in the course of evolution underlie this first and unique love
relationship.” (Bowlby, 1958). Of course, Bowlby’s suggestion
of classifying a Freudian drive as a Secondary Drive evoked a
number of heavy protests from leading Freud followers, but the
one proffered by Anna Freud points to a hitherto unrecognized
solution: “He [Bowlby] sets up a controversy between the tie
to the mother and the action of the pleasure principle in terms
of “primary and secondary drive” and criticizes us for reversing
their order of importance, i.e., for regarding the tie to the
mother as a secondary, the search for pleasure as a primary
instinctual urge.” (Freud, 1960). Most remarkably, Anna Freud
accepted Bowlby’s view that there are other drives at work
as well as the motivational Freudian ones. It should therefore
be helpful to classify these non-Freudian drives as Bowlbyian
ones11. The dispute concerning the ranking of the drives is
presumably futile since both kinds of drives are obviously
essential for the survival of the human species. Thus, by accepting
the view that the motivation of the child to stay in close
proximity to its mother is the result of a Bowlbyian drive
activity, a detailed search in literature would be of interest
with regard to the possibility of whether 5-hydroxytryptamine
is involved in motivations/emotion connected with attachment
in general. The observation that a polymorphism of the 5-HT2A
serotonin receptor gene – this receptor being one important
target for 5-hydroxytryptamine in the brain – is connected with
the psychological disorder referred to as ‘avoidant attachment’
(Gillath et al., 2008) currently offers the strongest proof that
5-hydroxytryptamine is in fact involved in the processing
(and not in the down-regulation12) of a Bowlbyian drive.
In addition, 5-hydroxytryptamine increases the secretion of
oxytocin (Saydoff et al., 1991;Bagdy and Makara, 1994) and
this neuromodulator is obviously highly important for the tie
between an infant and its mother (Uvnäs Moberg and Prime,
11Such a classification would additionally prevent confusions with Panksepp’s
‘Nested Brain Mind Hierarchies’ labeled primary-process, secondary-process and
tertiary-process (Panksepp and Biven, 2012;Watt, 2017).
12Provided that 5-hydroxytryptamine acted like in the Freudian drives as a
termination signal, a Bowlbyian drive with a defect 5-HT2A receptor would be
over-stimulated, in contrast to the observation.
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Kirsch The Capabilities of Imperative Motor Factors
2013). Since 5-hydroxytryptamine down-regulates the activity
of a Freudian drive initiated by imperative motor factors and
because 5-hydroxytryptamine supports via increase of oxytocin
secretion the processing of a Bowlbyian drive, it can be safely
concluded that imperative motor factors are not responsible for
Bowlbyian drive activities. Of course, the lack of knowledge
of how an impaired or down-regulated Bowlbyian drive is
able to activate command system activities – according to
Panksepp, an impaired attachment activates the PANIC/GRIEF
system (Panksepp and Biven, 2012, pp. 312–313) – needs
to be evaluated.
Experimental psychologists demonstrate that both positive
emotionally valent stimuli and negative (aversive) ones can
successfully enhance (the motivation) ’attention’ in patients
(Dominguez-Borras et al., 2013;Vuilleumier, 2015). From
such experimental findings psychologists have concluded that
emotions provide guidance for motivations and are linked
with them (e.g., Gilbert, 2014). However, the conclusion that
an emotion can initiate a motivation has hardly any means
of little significance, given the lack of a generally accepted
definition of the term ’motivation’ in psychology. Since an
emotion can inform an individual about the existence of
a metabolic deficit (but cannot be responsible for such an
imbalance), it is concluded that an emotion cannot initiate a
Freudian drive dependent motivation. The expressed example,
the putative motivation ’attention’ is obviously independent
of the intermediary action of a Freudian drive and would
be (as long as any generally accepted definition of the term
’motivation’ is lacking) tentatively classified as a metabolic deficit
independent motivation that might be liberated by an emotion.
The next puzzler, namely whether an emotion can provoke a
Bowlbyian drive dependent motivation, cannot be answered yet
because the precise architecture of this complex drive still needs
to be evaluated.
This manuscript has been written under the assumption that
our recently published update (Kirsch and Mertens, 2018)
to Freud’s 100-year-old (but essentially accurate) theory of
motivational drives needs to be conclusively expanded in order
to exploit its full potential. Not just the SEEKING system, but
imperative motor factors of all Freudian drives have targets
in the central amygdala (Table 2), a brain area that was
classified by Panksepp (Panksepp and Biven, 2012, p. 196) as
the instinctual part of the FEAR command system. In addition,
the imperative motor factors of the sexual drive, hunger and
thirst also have targets in the medial amygdala (Table 2),
an area of the brain classified as being part of the RAGE
command system (Watt, 2017). Thus, besides directly generating
SEEKING activities, all imperative motor factors are able to
generate FEAR activities, and three of them can also directly
stimulate the generation of RAGE activities. In addition, all
drives can indirectly modulate all sorts of command system
activities by controlling Panksepp’s ‘granddaddy’ of affective
neuroscience, i.e., by modulating the activity of orexinergic
neurons in the lateral hypothalamus (Table 3). Because of
this, the sexual drive and hunger can stimulate affective
neurophysiological activities via orexin-mediated networking,
whereas sleep and thirst can inhibit such demands. The opposing
actions of hunger and thirst were first used to explain the
co-regulation of a Freudian drive. In order not to overrate
the deconvolved impressive capabilities of Freudian drives, the
astute reader needs to note that essential motivational drive
activities described by Bowlby, classified here as Bowlbyian
drives, cannot be explained by the intermediacy of imperative
motor factors. The action of imperative motor factors is basically
drafted (Figure 1).
The consideration of actual findings on Freud’s theory
of motivational drives (evaluated here and in our previous
manuscript) leads to the following assertions:
(1) Human beings are directed, but not determined, by
Freudian drives in an unconscious manner.
(2) The satisfaction of a Freudian drive leads to the release
of the neurotransmitter 5-hydroxytryptamine in order to
down-regulate the drive.
(3) The sexual drive, hunger, thirst and sleep are Freudian
drives with an imperative character.
(4) The imperative motor factor of a Freudian drive is a
signal molecule that directly targets nucleus accumbens,
lateral hypothalamus,central amygdala and a drive-
specific brain area.
(5) The imperative motor factor of a Freudian drive can
directly evoke generation of drive-specific SEEKING and
(6) The imperative motor factors of the sexual drive, hunger
and thirst also directly target the medial amygdala, thereby
evoking the generation of RAGE activities.
(7) All imperative motor factors are able to modulate,
indirectly, the generation of affective neuroscience
activities by targeting orexinergic neurons in the
lateral hypothalamus.
In summary, it can be said that the intermediacy
of Freudian imperative motor factors can explain
convincingly the modulation of command system activities.
Accordingly, the concept of Freudian motivational
drives is somewhat underestimated even by Freudian
psychoanalysts, although Boag recently mentioned the putative
importance of the drives for the id and the ego, respectively
(Boag, 2014).
The author wrote and designed the manuscript.
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Kirsch The Capabilities of Imperative Motor Factors
It is a pleasure to thank Prof. Dr. Michael B. Buchholz
of the International Psychoanalytic University Berlin for
initiating the writing of this manuscript for a leading
psychology/psychoanalysis journal. The author has benefitted
from many stimulating discussions with Prof. Dr. Wolfgang
Mertens (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Faculty
of Psychology and Educational Sciences. Department of
Psychology. Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy). In
addition, the author is also grateful to all reviewers for very
useful comments on an earlier version of this manuscript.
Nevertheless, any errors in this paper are entirely my
own responsibility.
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Conflict of Interest Statement: The author declares that the research was
conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could
be construed as a potential conflict of interest.
Copyright © 2019 Kirsch. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms
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copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal
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Frontiers in Psychology | 11 March 2019 | Volume 10 | Article 470
... We will begin with a review of drive as described by Michael Kirsch (Kirsch and Mertens, 2018;Kirsch, 2019). Kirsch explained that all drives depend on hormones that lodge in the lateral hypothalamus to switch the SEEKING system from hunger to thirst to sex to sleep. ...
... How can an unconscious motivation induce a conscious emotion or promote a behavior? Kirsch (2019) discussed this concept as one that is relatively accepted within scientific communities but states that the mechanism by which specific motivations may induce specific emotions is not fully understood. He identified Freud's motivational drives as an example of these "unconscious motivations" and asked how such motivations might lead to conscious emotions. ...
... He identified Freud's motivational drives as an example of these "unconscious motivations" and asked how such motivations might lead to conscious emotions. In Freud's literature on his theory of motivational drives, he identified hunger, thirst, and sex drive as three drives that are similar in that they all have a unique somatic stimulus that acts to promote a specific behavior (Kirsch, 2019). He called these stimuli "imperative motor factors." ...
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Addictive drugs are responsible for mass killing. Neither persons with addiction nor the general populace seem conscious of the malevolence of governments and drug dealers working together. How could this be? What is the place of psychoanalysis in thinking about deaths from addiction and in responding to patients with addiction? To answer these questions, we revise concepts of SEEKING, drive, instinct, pleasure, and unpleasure as separable. We review the neurobiological mechanism of cathexis. We discuss how addictive drugs take over the will by changing the SEEKING system. We review how opioid tone in the central nervous system regulates human relationships and how this endogenous hormonal system is modified by external opioid administration. We differentiate the pleasure of relatedness from the unpleasure of urgent need including the urgent need for drugs. We show how addictive drug-induced changes in the SEEKING system diminish dopaminergic tone, reducing the motivation to engage in the pursuit of food, water, sex, sleep, and relationships in favor of addictive drugs. With this neuropsychoanalytic understanding of how drugs work, we become more confidently conscious of our ability to respond individually and socially.
... A comparison between Bowlby's mother-infant tie and Freudian drives can only be done with the up-dated version of the latter (Kirsch and Mertens, 2018;Kirsch, 2019) which is now briefly expressed: In 1905 Freud descripted precisely the onset of his drives: "The source of an instinct is a process of excitation occurring in an organ and· · · " (S. Freud, 1905Freud, , p. 1492). ...
... This intermediate exerts a stimulatory control over pituitary release of β-endorphin in human beings (Petraglia et al., 1987;Maes et al., 1996) and endorphins are known to induce euphoria and to limit pain (Roth-Deri et al., 2008;Charbogne et al., 2014;Veening and Barendregt, 2015). The imperative motor factors address (not only one but) a variety of brain areas that were important for a specific drive activity (Kirsch, 2019). In correspondence with Freud's perspective, there is no need to permanently monitor metabolic deficits with brain-dependent sensing activities for the onset of a drive. ...
... In Panksepp (1992) introduced four biological brain based action system (expectancy, fear, 9 In 1999 the possibility of hormone-controlled drives was covered by Pfaff (1999). 10 Noticeably, persistent mistranslations of Freud's terms (pressure-dependent) motorisches Moment (correctly, in the Freudian sense: imperative motor factor) as "motor factor", Trieb (correctly: drive) as "instinct", Trieblehre (correctly in the Freudian sense: theory of motivational drives) as "theory of instincts" and unbewusst (correctly: subconscious) as "unconscious" have given rise to a variety of misunderstandings (Kirsch, 2019). 11 These hormones can be understood as the "springs" of the corresponding drives. ...
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The affective bond between an infant and its caregiver, the so-called mother-infant tie, was analyzed by various reputable psychologists (e.g., Ainsworth, Clark, Erikson, Anna Freud, Harlow, Klein, Spitz, and Winnicott) but both the basic tenets of the bond and the importance of the trauma of maternal deprivation for personality disorders in adults were introduced by Bowlby. Although Bowlby was a trained psychoanalyst, he rejected central cornerstones of Freudian theory (esp. drive theory) and used concepts promulgated by renowned ethologists (Tinbergen and Lorenz) to establish his framework of “instinctive behavior” that has been developed further into the concept of “attachment theory” under the influence of Mary Ainsworth. However, since any precise experimental facts were lacking when Bowlby formulated his ideas on the concept of instinctive behavior, the whole framework is a descriptive, category-driven approach (like the ones of Freudian drives). In order to connect the mother-infant tie – as propounded by Bowlby – with experimental data, this manuscript undertakes a biochemical analysis of it because this strategy proved somewhat successful in relation to Freudian drives. The analysis unfolded that the neurochemical oxytocin, released by the action of sensory nerves, is of utmost importance for the operation of the mother-infant tie. Furthermore, multiple evidences have been presented to the fact that there is strong interaction between unconsciously operating Freudian drives and the consciously acting mother-infant tie (that is now classified as a drive). The outlined interaction in conjunction with the classification of attachment urges as drives gave a very detailed insight into how a SEEKING-derived reward can be evoked during operation of the mother-infant tie. In summary, there is no need to marginalize either the mother-infant tie or Freudian drives but rather there is need to respect both (principally different) impulses in moving toward a more extensive description.
The puzzle of whether psychological issues are improving or harming resource management has been plaguing researchers for decades. Derived from the metasystems learning design theory, this study argued that studying intrinsic motivation in the diversity of learning environments improves our understanding of the state-of-art in the frontier area of psychology and resource management. To test this hypothesis, first, it was generalized motivation theories; then, it highlighted the scope of the Metasystems Learning Design Theory and, finally, developed an online survey using Google Drive. Data were collected from 114 respondents physically located in various countries. Our results confirmed a strong scientific bridge between intrinsic motivation and lifelong learning within the scope of resource management. Thus, all our respondents live in the diversity of learning environments, and most of them identify themselves as explorers, researchers, and observers. Their main motivation to be in the diversity of learning environments is argued by visiting new places and exploring new cultures. The principal external source of motivation is to achieve higher status in a job, secure professional advancement, and stay abreast of competitors. Moreover, motivation is not only about the power to control some aspects of human work, but also about the motivation of employees to manage their life evaluated as successful adaptation of employees or/and organisation at environmental challenges. Most young people possess a visual learning style. Future works of our research group will develop the metasystems learning design theory of motivation to work in a challenging world using as the baseline the survey format presented in this article.
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This article applies the free energy principle to the hard problem of consciousness. After clarifying some philosophical issues concerning functionalism, it identifies the elemental form of consciousness as affect and locates its physiological mechanism (an extended form of homeostasis) in the upper brainstem. This mechanism is then formalized in terms of free energy minimization (in unpredicted contexts) where decreases and increases in expected uncertainty are felt as pleasure and unpleasure, respectively. Emphasis is placed on the reasons why such existential imperatives feel like something to and for an organism.
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With the transition from a one-person psychology of instinctual needs to a two-person psychology of relational needs, the metapsychological focus tends to shift from instinct theory to emotion motivation and systems theory, and, accordingly, familiar concepts have to be rethought. In this article, the superego is reconceptualized as a psychic regulation system for self-evaluation, comprising the capacity for empathy, the proneness to experience self-conscious emotions, such as shame, pride, and guilt, and the capacity for moral reasoning. This new conceptualization provides useful tools for addressing the actual functioning of the conscience in clinical psychoanalysis. Affective neuropsychoanalysis can make important contributions to this rethinking of the superego. It also brings clinical practice and psychoanalytic metapsychology closer to empirical research beyond the scope of clinical psychoanalysis. The new model offers ample opportunities for integrating affective neuroscience into the functioning of the conscience.
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Doubters of Freud’s theory of drives frequently mentioned that his approach is outdated and therefore cannot be useful for solving current problems in patients with mental disorders. At present, many scientists believe that affects rather than drives are of utmost importance for the emotional life and the theoretical framework of affective neuroscience, developed by Panksepp, strongly underpinned this view. Panksepp evaluated seven so-called command systems and the SEEKING system is therein of central importance. Panksepp used Pankseppian drives as inputs for the SEEKING system but noted the missing explanation of drive-specific generation of SEEKING activities in his description. Drive specificity requires dual action of the drive: the activation of a drive-specific brain area and the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Noticeably, as Freud claimed drive specificity too, it was here analyzed whether a Freudian drive can evoke the generation of drive-specific SEEKING activities. Special importance was addressed to the imperative motor factor in Freud’s drive theory because Panksepp’s formulations focused on neural pathways without specifying underlying neurotransmitter/endocrine factors impelling motor activity. As Panksepp claimed sleep as a Pankseppian drive, we firstly had to classified sleep as a Freudian drive by using three evaluated criteria for a Freudian drive. After that it was possible to identify the imperative motor factors of hunger, thirst, sex, and sleep. Most importantly, all of these imperative motor factors can both activate a drive-specific brain area and release dopamine from dopaminergic neurons, i.e., they can achieve the so-called drive specificity. Surprisingly, an impaired Freudian drive can alter via endocrinological pathways the concentration of the imperative motor factor of a second Freudian drive, obviously in some independence to the level of the metabolic deficit, thereby offering the possibility to modulate the generation of SEEKING activities of this second Freudian drive. This novel possibility might help to refine the general understanding of the action of Freudian drives. As only imperative motor factors of Freudian drives can guarantee drive specificity for the generation of SEEKING activities, the impact of Freud’s construct Eros (with its constituents hunger, thirst, sex, and sleep) should be revisited.
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Psychologists usually considered the “Self” as an object of experience appearing when the individual perceives its existence within the conscious field. In accordance with such a view, the self-representing capacity of the human mind has been related to corticolimbic learning processes taking place within individual development. On the other hand, Carl Gustav Jung considered the Self as the core of our personality, in its conscious and unconscious aspects, as well as in its actual and potential forms. According to Jung, the Self originates from an inborn dynamic structure integrating the essential drives of our “brain–mind,” and leading both to instinctual behavioral actions and to archetypal psychological experiences. Interestingly, recent neuroethological studies indicate that our subjective identity rests on ancient neuropsychic processes that humans share with other animals as part of their inborn constitutional repertoire. Indeed, brain activity within subcortical midline structures (SCMSs) is intrinsically related to the emergence of prototypical affective states, that not only influence our behavior in a flexible way, but alter our conscious field, giving rise to specific feelings or moods, which constitute the first form of self-orientation in the world. Moreover, such affective dynamics play a central role in the organization of individual personality and in the evolution of all other (more sophisticated) psychological functions. Therefore, on the base of the convergence between contemporary cutting-edge scientific research and some psychological intuitions of Jung, we intend here to explore the first neuroevolutional layer of human mind, that we call the affective core of the Self.
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Emotional states of consciousness, or what are typically called emotional feelings, are traditionally viewed as being innately programmed in subcortical areas of the brain, and are often treated as different from cognitive states of consciousness, such as those related to the perception of external stimuli. We argue that conscious experiences, regardless of their content, arise from one system in the brain. In this view, what differs in emotional and nonemotional states are the kinds of inputs that are processed by a general cortical network of cognition, a network essential for conscious experiences. Although subcortical circuits are not directly responsible for conscious feelings, they provide nonconscious inputs that coalesce with other kinds of neural signals in the cognitive assembly of conscious emotional experiences. In building the case for this proposal, we defend a modified version of what is known as the higher-order theory of consciousness.
[…] To the best of our knowledge, the basic biological values of all mammalian brains were built upon the same basic plan, laid out in consciousness-creating affective circuits that are concentrated in subcortical regions, far below the neocortical “thinking cap” that is so highly developed in humans. Mental life would be impossible without this foundation. There, among the ancestral brain networks that we share with other mammals, a few ounces of brain tissue constitute the bedrock of our emotional lives, generating the many primal ways in which we can feel emotionally good or bad within ourselves. As we mature and learn about ourselves, and the world in which we live, these systems provide a solid foundation for further mental developments. These subcortical brain networks are quite similar in all mammals, but they are not identical in all details. This similarity extends even to certain species of birds that, for instance, also have separation-distress PANIC networks—a GRIEF system, as we will often label it here— one of the main sources of psychological pain within their brains and ours. © 2019 selection and editorial matter, Sheila Watson, Amy Jane Barnes and Katy Bunning; individual chapters, the contributors.