Impact sommeil sur santé cérébrale

We have to make more or less complex choices every day. Making a choice involves making a decision and therefore leads us to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages resulting from this choice.

We believe that a good decision is one which takes into account the reason. But no, emotion also has a say! Indeed, making a "rational" decision does not absolutely require "keeping quiet" our emotions. Both are necessary for decision-making!

The question of the duality between emotion and reason has invigorated many debates. The mathematician and philosopher René Descartes, to name but one, made the distinction between reason and emotion, identifying them as two distinct entities. The idea was that our emotions (heart) represented a disturbance for reasoning (brain). However, much later, the neuroscientist Antonio Damasio demonstrated that, on the contrary, reason and emotion are connected. He made this observation by exploring the behavior of patients and by studying the "Phineas Gage case". In 1994, he published "Descartes’ Error".

Let me tell you the story of Phineas Gage, one of the most famous patients in neuropsychology. This foreman worked on the construction site of the railway in the United States. In 1848, while he was preparing explosives to blow up a rock, he was victim of an impressive accident: a three feet seven inches long, and weighing 13 14 pounds iron bar was driven completely through his head. Contrary to what we might think, Phineas Gage, knocked to the ground, survives. After a few moments, he recovers speaking and movement. He would have said to his doctor "Doctor, you're going to have work ...". But some time after this terrible accident, Dr. Harlow noted that his personality had changed. This man, once polite, respectful and sociable was later described as irascible, indifferent and vulgar. Moreover, he was found no longer able to stick to his goals or make rational decisions. "Gage is no longer Gage".

In the 90s, the Damasio couple reconstitutes Phineas Gage's brain on the basis of a photograph of his skull (preserved at Harvard) and analyzes this data with those collected at the time by Dr. Harlow. The damaged part of the brain is located in the pre-frontal area. A. Damasio explains that the junction between emotion and reason can not function anymore due to this damaged part of the brain. According to him, this region is the seat of physical sensations related to emotional feeling, the somatic markers. When you make a decision, the choices involved would induce emotions associated to physical sensations. These physical sensations, quite unconscious, would be related to our past experiences, to our personal history. So we would favor the option associated with the most positive feeling. An option associated with an unpleasant physical sensation would be interpreted as harmful by our brain, and therefore rejected. P. Gage, no longer having access to these somatic markers, thus makes unfortunate decisions for himself or others.

I will give you an example as an illustration of a simple choice: you are hungry and quickly take a yogurt from the fridge. You open it and the nauseating smell makes you feel disgust (emotion) with a panoply of physical sensations (modification of the facial expression, fast heart beating, even vomit). So you make the decision not to eat it. Good choice a priori, because it was in fact outdated! Thanks to your emotions (here disgust), they permitted you to avoid stomach pain!

With complex decision-making, these somatic markers can reduce the number of choices by eliminating those which are not judicious (causing unpleasant sensations). Therefore, somatic markers increase the accuracy and efficiency of the decision-making process.

Furthermore, Neuroimaging (MRI) studies confirm the involvement of emotions by decision-making. The amygdala, which is a brain area involved in emotional reactions, is activated when a person makes decisions.

To be more precise: It is important to distinguish the emotion related to the elements constituting the choice or the emotion related to an external reason from the choice. For example, you get to a meeting after having trouble spending 1 hour in traffic jams! You're angry and irritated, you're going to need a little while to calm down. This emotion, anger, is external to the choices which will be presented to you at the meeting. So in this case, it is necessary to regulate your emotions before making decisions. Take a deep breath, the traffic jam is over, you arrived at the meeting and a small coffee / croissant is waiting for you, everything is fine!

One last thing, there is an interaction between emotions and reason when making a decision. But be aware that what makes a decision good or bad also depends on what we do with it afterwards!


Image

Caroline Joubert: Neuropsychologist

Caroline Joubert obtained a Master’s degree in Psychology from the Université de Caen with a specialisation in Neuropsychology and an Inter-University Diploma from the Université Paris 8 in Psychopathology and Neurological Illness. She has been responsible for neuropsychological assessments and neuropsychological rehabilitation of adults and children in several hospitals in France. At ELLISTRA, she is bringing her expertise in neuroscience to create new content (videos, articles, etc.).

RÉFÉRENCES

  • Van Hoorebeke, D. (2008). L'émotion et la prise de décision. Revue française de gestion. 2 (182),
    33-44. (Cairn Free article) (Research Gate)
  • Le cerveau à tous les niveaux. Capsule expérience : Pannes d'émotions, pannes de décisions.
    lecerveau.mcgill.ca, [En ligne]. Page consultée le 10 Septembre 2018.
    http://lecerveau.mcgill.ca/flash/capsules/experience_bleu04.htm
  • Antonio Damasio. (1995). L'Erreur de Descartes. La raison des émotions, Odile Jacob.
  • Conférence de D. Sander. (2017). Le rôle des émotions dans la prise de décision. Semaine de la
    démocratie. (Université de Genève). [Vidéo en ligne]. Repéré à https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SD3SfM4Xr4I
  • Bechara., A. (2004). The role of emotion in decision-making: Evidence from neurological patients
    with orbitofrontal damage. Brain and Cognition. 55 (1), 30-40 (ScienceDirect)
Impact sommeil sur santé cérébrale

Do emotions have a say in decision making?

by Caroline Joubert

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We have to make more or less complex choices every day. Making a choice involves making a decision and therefore leads us to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages resulting from this choice.

We believe that a good decision is one which takes into account the reason. But no, emotion also has a say! Indeed, making a "rational" decision does not absolutely require "keeping quiet" our emotions. Both are necessary for decision-making!

The question of the duality between emotion and reason has invigorated many debates. The mathematician and philosopher René Descartes, to name but one, made the distinction between reason and emotion, identifying them as two distinct entities. The idea was that our emotions (heart) represented a disturbance for reasoning (brain). However, much later, the neuroscientist Antonio Damasio demonstrated that, on the contrary, reason and emotion are connected. He made this observation by exploring the behavior of patients and by studying the "Phineas Gage case". In 1994, he published "Descartes’ Error".

Let me tell you the story of Phineas Gage, one of the most famous patients in neuropsychology. This foreman worked on the construction site of the railway in the United States. In 1848, while he was preparing explosives to blow up a rock, he was victim of an impressive accident: a three feet seven inches long, and weighing 13 14 pounds iron bar was driven completely through his head. Contrary to what we might think, Phineas Gage, knocked to the ground, survives. After a few moments, he recovers speaking and movement. He would have said to his doctor "Doctor, you're going to have work ...". But some time after this terrible accident, Dr. Harlow noted that his personality had changed. This man, once polite, respectful and sociable was later described as irascible, indifferent and vulgar. Moreover, he was found no longer able to stick to his goals or make rational decisions. "Gage is no longer Gage".

In the 90s, the Damasio couple reconstitutes Phineas Gage's brain on the basis of a photograph of his skull (preserved at Harvard) and analyzes this data with those collected at the time by Dr. Harlow. The damaged part of the brain is located in the pre-frontal area. A. Damasio explains that the junction between emotion and reason can not function anymore due to this damaged part of the brain. According to him, this region is the seat of physical sensations related to emotional feeling, the somatic markers. When you make a decision, the choices involved would induce emotions associated to physical sensations. These physical sensations, quite unconscious, would be related to our past experiences, to our personal history. So we would favor the option associated with the most positive feeling. An option associated with an unpleasant physical sensation would be interpreted as harmful by our brain, and therefore rejected. P. Gage, no longer having access to these somatic markers, thus makes unfortunate decisions for himself or others.

I will give you an example as an illustration of a simple choice: you are hungry and quickly take a yogurt from the fridge. You open it and the nauseating smell makes you feel disgust (emotion) with a panoply of physical sensations (modification of the facial expression, fast heart beating, even vomit). So you make the decision not to eat it. Good choice a priori, because it was in fact outdated! Thanks to your emotions (here disgust), they permitted you to avoid stomach pain!

With complex decision-making, these somatic markers can reduce the number of choices by eliminating those which are not judicious (causing unpleasant sensations). Therefore, somatic markers increase the accuracy and efficiency of the decision-making process.

Furthermore, Neuroimaging (MRI) studies confirm the involvement of emotions by decision-making. The amygdala, which is a brain area involved in emotional reactions, is activated when a person makes decisions.

To be more precise: It is important to distinguish the emotion related to the elements constituting the choice or the emotion related to an external reason from the choice. For example, you get to a meeting after having trouble spending 1 hour in traffic jams! You're angry and irritated, you're going to need a little while to calm down. This emotion, anger, is external to the choices which will be presented to you at the meeting. So in this case, it is necessary to regulate your emotions before making decisions. Take a deep breath, the traffic jam is over, you arrived at the meeting and a small coffee / croissant is waiting for you, everything is fine!

One last thing, there is an interaction between emotions and reason when making a decision. But be aware that what makes a decision good or bad also depends on what we do with it afterwards!


Image

Caroline Joubert: Neuropsychologist

Caroline Joubert obtained a Master’s degree in Psychology from the Université de Caen with a specialisation in Neuropsychology and an Inter-University Diploma from the Université Paris 8 in Psychopathology and Neurological Illness. She has been responsible for neuropsychological assessments and neuropsychological rehabilitation of adults and children in several hospitals in France. At ELLISTRA, she is bringing her expertise in neuroscience to create new content (videos, articles, etc.).

Image

Caroline Joubert: Neuropsychologue

Caroline Joubert a obtenu un Master en Psychologie avec une spécialisation en Neuropsychologie à l'Université de Caen et un diplôme inter-universitaire en Psychopathologie et Affections Neurologiques à l’Université Paris 8. Elle a été responsable d’évaluations et réhabilitations neuropsychologiques auprès d'adultes et d'enfants au sein de différents hôpitaux en France, ainsi qu'en libéral. Chez ELLISTRA, elle apporte son expertise en neuroscience pour créer divers contenus (vidéos, articles, etc.).

RÉFÉRENCES

  • Van Hoorebeke, D. (2008). L'émotion et la prise de décision. Revue française de gestion. 2 (182),
    33-44. (Cairn Free article) (Research Gate)
  • Le cerveau à tous les niveaux. Capsule expérience : Pannes d'émotions, pannes de décisions.
    lecerveau.mcgill.ca, [En ligne]. Page consultée le 10 Septembre 2018.
    http://lecerveau.mcgill.ca/flash/capsules/experience_bleu04.htm
  • Antonio Damasio. (1995). L'Erreur de Descartes. La raison des émotions, Odile Jacob.
  • Conférence de D. Sander. (2017). Le rôle des émotions dans la prise de décision. Semaine de la
    démocratie. (Université de Genève). [Vidéo en ligne]. Repéré à https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SD3SfM4Xr4I
  • Bechara., A. (2004). The role of emotion in decision-making: Evidence from neurological patients
    with orbitofrontal damage. Brain and Cognition. 55 (1), 30-40 (ScienceDirect)