Research Topic

Neurotransmitters and Emotions

About this Research Topic

Despite the central importance of emotion for human existence, debates still focus on the definition of emotion, the number of emotions that exist and whether different emotions have different physiological signatures. Although there has been no shortage of psychological research on these debates, ...

Despite the central importance of emotion for human existence, debates still focus on the definition of emotion, the number of emotions that exist and whether different emotions have different physiological signatures. Although there has been no shortage of psychological research on these debates, psychological analyses have not resolved many of the core issues surrounding emotions. However, information about the representation of emotions in the brain may shed light on the nature of emotional processes. Like color, people will never imagine that there are only three primary colors, if not for the physiological proof of three different kinds of conic cells in the eye though admittedly emotion seems much more complicated.

Indeed, studies of the neural basis of emotion have a long history, and are still an active subfield within experimental and theoretical research: Most of this work focuses on identifying neural structures responsible for the experience of particular emotions and around the mid twentieth century, this kind of research culminated in the limbic system theory of emotion. This research approach, which outlined the neural anatomical basis of emotion, helped to locate the important structures involved in primary emotions, but the structure for emotions is usually mixed and widespread in the brain, which suggests an alternative approach: neuromodulators. Furthermore, with the development of drugs for affective disorders, monoamine was shown to be the substrate for emotion and even though decades have passed, the effects of monoamine in treating affective diseases are still quite mixed. For example, antidepressant drugs affect almost all the monoamine neuromodulators and are used for almost all affective diseases such as anxiety, phobia, depression et al. Overall, there is a need to improve the conceptualization and classification of emotional states and how neuromodulators are specifically involved in these states.

In this Research Topic, we welcome papers that focus on the emotional functions of neuromodulators, such as dopamine (DA), norepinephrine (NE), serotonin (5-HT) and acetyl choline (ACh), in order to establish the mechanism through which they act as the primary neural basis for the primary emotions, such as joy, anger, fear, sadness. For example, DA might be a rewarding signal for salient stimuli such as food, sex and other needs, 5-HT has been related to depression for decades, and NE is the substrate for “fight or flight” behaviors, or fear and anger emotions. In addition to these neurotransmitters, corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH), which was named the stress hormone, can simulate norepinephrine (NE) synthesis, dopamine and 5-HT. CRH release also activates the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which has been widely accepted as one of the central mechanisms involved in stress. The CRH induces release of ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone), which can in turn alter function of the neural network by altering building blocks in the networks and by altering the integrative properties, and thus the behavioral or emotional changes. Indeed, some stressful events can induce monoamine release and we welcome studies on all events that are linked with monoamine. We welcome the following submission formats: quantitative or qualitative research, review, perspective, and case studies.

Themes in this Research Topic might include, but are not limited to, the following:
1. The relationship of the neural circuits that represents the monoaminergic neurons with basic emotion.
2. Theoretical explorations of monoamine and basic emotions, such as dopamine with reward or happiness.
3. Other neurotransmitters which affect monoamines and emotions.
4. Neurobiological mechanisms of stress and emotions, such as HPA.
5. Drugs that affect monoamine and affective diseases.
6. Case reports about neurotransmitter disturbance within affective disorders.


Keywords: Neuromodulators, Dopamine, Seratonin, Norepineprhine, Basic Emotions


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

30 November 2018 Manuscript
30 November 2019 Manuscript Extension

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

30 November 2018 Manuscript
30 November 2019 Manuscript Extension

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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