From emotions to consciousness - a neuro-phenomenal and neuro-relational approach

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28 Citations (Scopus)


The James-Lange theory considers emotional feelings as perceptions of physiological body changes. This approach has recently resurfaced and modified in both neurosci-entific and philosophical concepts of embodiment of emotional feelings. In addition to the body, the role of the environment in emotional feeling needs to be considered. I here claim that the environment has not merely an indirect and instrumental, i.e., modulatory role on emotional feelings via the body and its sensorimotor and vegeta-tive functions. Instead, the environment may have a direct and non-instrumental, i.e., constitutional role in emotional feelings. This implies that the environment itself is con-stitutive of emotional feeling rather than the bodily representation of the environment. I call this the relational concept of emotional feeling. The present paper discusses recent data from neuroimaging that investigate emotions in relation to interoceptive processing and the brain's intrinsic activity. These data show the intrinsic linkage of interoceptive stimulus processing to both exteroceptive stimuli and the brain's intrin-sic activity. This is possible only if the differences between intrinsic activity and intero-and exteroceptive stimuli is encoded into neural activity. Such relational coding makes possible the assignment of subjective and affective features to the otherwise objec-tive and non-affective stimulus. I therefore consider emotions to be intrinsically affec-tive and subjective as it is manifest in emotional feelings. The relational approach thus goes together with what may be described as neuro-phenomenal approach. Such neuro-phenomenal approach does not only inform emotions and emotional feeling but is also highly relevant to better understand the neuronal mechanisms underlying consciousness in general.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberArticle 303
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Issue numberAUG
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Consciousness
  • Emotion
  • Emotional feeling
  • Insula
  • James-Lange theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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