Friday, May 9, 2014

The mind's 23 building blocks

These are the brain systems the NIMH has identified. They are grouped into five categories:

Negative systems
·         Acute threat – also known as our fear circuitry. Active when we sense danger
·         Potential threat – active, not in presence of a threat, but when we know the risk of          danger is higher than normal. Associated with a sense of unease or anxiety
·         Sustained threat – negative emotional state caused by prolonged exposure to                  unpleasant conditions. Can cause loss of enjoyment in usually pleasurable activities
·         Loss – circuits active during permanent or sustained loss of a loved one, or                      emotionally significant objects or situation, such as shelter or status.
·         Frustration non-reward – reactions to lack of reward after sustained efforts. Can            involve aggressive behaviour

Positive systems
·         Approach motivation – circuits that control our efforts to obtain a reward, such as          sex or food
·         Initial responsiveness to reward – feelings of pleasure on obtaining a reward.                  Involves opioid and endocannabinoid receptors, those activated by morphine and              cannabis
·         Sustained responsiveness to reward – mechanisms that terminate reward-seeking            behaviour, such as satiety, the feeling that enough food has been eaten
·         Reward learning – processes by which we acquire information to predict rewards and      learn to repeat the positive experience
·         Habit – repetitive behaviours that, once started, can be done unconsciously. Habits          can free up cognitive resources

Cognitive systems
·         Attention – a range of processes that regulate access to awareness and higher                  cognitive systems
·         Perception – the processes that take sensory data and transform it into representations      of the environment
·         Working memory – the system that can hold and manipulate many items of                    information on a temporary basis
·         Declarative memory – the encoding, storage and retrieval of representations of facts        and events on a long-term basis
·         Language behaviour – systems that allow production and comprehension of words,        sentences, and coherent communication
·         Cognitive control – systems that modulate the operation of other cognitive and                emotional circuits. Can involve inhibition of behaviour or selection of best response            from competing alternatives

Social systems
·         Attachment – systems for bonding with friends and family. Involves hormones such        as oxytocin and vasopressin
·         Social communication – processes involved in exchange of socially relevant                    information, such as speech and body language
·         Perception of self – circuits involved in understanding ownership of one's own body        or actions
·         Perception of others – processes involved in being aware of and reasoning about            other animate entities, such as our "theory of mind" networks, which allow us to                understand that other people can have different beliefs to our own

Modulatory Systems
·         Arousal – a spectrum of sensitivity to stimuli, from coma and unconsciousness,                through anesthesia and sleep to full consciousness
·         Circadian rhythms – self-sustaining oscillations that organise the timing of biological        systems
·         Sleep-wake cycle – recurring behavioural states that reflect coordinated changes in the      brain. Regulated by physiological and circadian processes 

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