Emotion, motivation, and anxiety: brain mechanisms and psychophysiology

Biol Psychiatry. 1998 Dec 15;44(12):1248-63. doi: 10.1016/s0006-3223(98)00275-3.


The organization of response systems in emotion is founded on two basic motive systems, appetitive and defensive. The subcortical and deep cortical structures that determine primary motivated behavior are similar across mammalian species. Animal research has illuminated these neural systems and defined their reflex outputs. Although motivated behavior is more complex and varied in humans, the simpler underlying response patterns persist in affective expression. These basic phenomena are elucidated here in the context of affective perception. Thus, the research examines human beings watching uniquely human stimuli--primarily picture media (but also words and sounds) that prompt emotional arousal--showing how the underlying motivational structure is apparent in the organization of visceral and behavioral responses, in the priming of simple reflexes, and in the reentrant processing of these symbolic representations in the sensory cortex. Implications of the work for understanding pathological emotional states are discussed, emphasizing research on psychopathy and the anxiety disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anxiety Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology
  • Anxiety Disorders / therapy
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Fear / physiology
  • Humans
  • Imagery, Psychotherapy
  • Motivation*
  • Psychophysiology
  • Reflex, Startle / physiology