In psychology, the term ‘affect’ refers to the experience of feeling emotion. Philosophers have long sought to understand the source of emotion, including Plato and Aristotle who spoke of the faculties through which we think, feel and act.
Our scientific understanding of emotion and the brain took a leap in the 1950’s, thanks to a rat with an electrode placed in the nucleus accumbens (NAcc) region of its brain. The rat could stimulate its NAcc by pressing a lever, which it did with abandon to the exclusion of eating, drinking, sex and sleep. A pleasure circuit had been found in a mammalian brain.
Dr. Brian Knutson is an Associate Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at Stanford. His research focuses on the neural basis of emotion and the implications for social-decision making. By watching the brain in action as people make investment or shopping decisions, Knutson has helped uncover the neurological/emotional underpinnings of human choice. Similar research has also shown emotional differences in the decision making processes of people with clinical disorders like addiction and depression.
At our June Café, Knutson will discuss affective neuroscience and the recent innovations which allow visualization of brain activity in deep subcortical regions. He will also review research implicating these regions in emotion and motivation, and suggesting that activity in these regions can be used to predict peoples' choices.