Motivation, emotion and craving

Thursday, 23 de January de 2020
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   What are you wishing for now? What motivates this desire? What are the emotions involved in this motivation? We know that emotion is a reaction to an environmental and cognitive stimulus that produces both subjective experiences and significant neurobiological changes and is associated with temperament, personality and real and subjective motivations. There are several types of emotions such as anger, fear, joy, satisfaction, sadness and etc. But what are the patterns of emotional expression involved in the process of creating motivation or a desire?

   All emotions, whether positive (happiness, joy, satisfaction, etc.) or negative (anger, sadness, anguish, etc.), are closely linked to the development of some motivation or desire. The patterns of emotional expression are highly varied. Theorists have compiled categorical lists that include as many as eight or ten, so-called primary affective states. The evolutionary foundation of emotion has a motivational aspect of two simpler organization factors, the appetitive or aversive stimulus. For example, something bad that is happening in your life that causes you bad emotions motivates you to get out of that situation (aversive stimulus), or something that you want and think will bring good emotions that can also be responsible for your motivation (appetitive stimulus).


In these cases of appetitive stimuli, the desire can have consequences in emotional and motivational neurophysiological aspects, addiction. Addictions hijack the brain systems that control emotional and motivational behavior that are critical to adaptive survival. Feeling states, like desire, are the experimental component of motivational behavior, representing consciously accessible expressions of motivational need. The primary feeling states represent an elegant means of maintaining physiological homeostasis, for example, feelings such as hunger, cold or thirst motivate the absorption of nutrients (facilitating thermoregulation and rehydration) and can be considered homeostatic emotions. However, addictions exacerbated by substances and habits that are harmful to our body can bring negative aspects to homeostasis.

   The addictive nature of smoking, for example, is illustrated by the difficulty of smokers in quitting. The desire, typically experienced by smokers acutely abstaining from withdrawal, is understood as a key component in the addiction cycle. Studies carried out with smokers have shown that the addiction to smoking is attenuated or abolished after focal damage to the insula cortex. Almost half of the studied patients quit smoking after acquired brain injury. However, if the injury involved the insula cortex, the patient was twice as likely to quit smoking as patients with damage that does not affect the insular cortex.

  How do we study emotional relationships with motivation and desire in neuroscience? Works performed with electroencephalography (EEG) showed certain relationships between emotions and specific brain wave patterns, for example, usually, the Beta wave state (14-30 Hz) is associated with strong emotions such as fear, anger, anxiety, alertness, attention selective, concentration and anticipation (Figure below). Therefore, associating the use of EGG with motivational tasks, we have an efficient method for evaluating these parameters. The investigation of neuronal activity in the prefrontal cortex in cerebral areas of the limbic system through the invasive electrophysiology technique can also be a method used for this purpose since these areas are responsible for the various emotional patterns.


Find out more in our hub " Motivation, Emotion & Craving"

Cabral, J. C. (22 de março de 2018). «Uma Introdução à Neurociência das Emoções». Universo Racionalista
Levenson, R. W. (2011). Basic emotion questions. Emotion Review, 3(4), 379-386.
Gray, Marcus A., and Hugo D. Critchley. "Interoceptive basis to craving." Neuron 54.2 (2007): 183-186.
Lang, Peter J., Margaret M. Bradley, and Bruce N. Cuthbert. "Emotion, motivation, and anxiety: Brain mechanisms and psychophysiology." Biological psychiatry 44.12 (1998): 1248-1263.
KEIL, A..Functional correlates of macropic high frequency brain activity in the human visual system. Neuroscience Biobehav. Revista 25


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Rodrigo Oliveira

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