The Affective Core of Emotion: Linking Pleasure, Subjective Well-Being, and Optimal Metastability in the Brain

Emot Rev. 2017 Jul;9(3):191-199. doi: 10.1177/1754073916684558. Epub 2017 Jun 15.


Arguably, emotion is always valenced-either pleasant or unpleasant-and dependent on the pleasure system. This system serves adaptive evolutionary functions; relying on separable wanting, liking, and learning neural mechanisms mediated by mesocorticolimbic networks driving pleasure cycles with appetitive, consummatory, and satiation phases. Liking is generated in a small set of discrete hedonic hotspots and coldspots, while wanting is linked to dopamine and to larger distributed brain networks. Breakdown of the pleasure system can lead to anhedonia and other features of affective disorders. Eudaimonia and well-being are difficult to study empirically, yet whole-brain computational models could offer novel insights (e.g., routes to eudaimonia such as caregiving of infants or music) potentially linking eudaimonia to optimal metastability in the pleasure system.

Keywords: anhedonia; eudaimonia; pleasure; reward.