Homeostatic feeling (or homeostatic affect, or homeostatic emotion, or primordial emotion) is a class of feelings (e.g., thirst, pain, fatigue) evoked by an internal body state. Homeostatic feelings drive specific behavior (drinking, withdrawing and resting in these examples) aimed at restoring the body to its ideal state.
Derek Denton uses the term "primordial emotion" and defines it as "the subjective element of the instincts, which are the genetically programmed behaviour patterns which contrive homeostasis. They include thirst, hunger for air, hunger for food, pain, hunger for specific minerals etc. There are two constituents of a primordial emotion—the specific sensation which when severe may be imperious, and the compelling intention for gratification by a consummatory act."
Denton includes sexual desire in this class and distinguishes two classes of feelings:
- these primordial emotions ("imperious states of arousal and compelling intentions to act" driven by activation of interoceptors and involving ancient, lower brain regions such as the medulla, midbrain and hypothalamus), and
- the classic emotions such as anger, fear and love, driven by distance receptors (vision, hearing, olfaction) and mediated by higher, more recently evolved brain regions.
Jaak Panksepp called this class of feelings "homeostatic affect." He recognised it as one of three primary classes of affect: sensory affect (e.g., touch, warmth), homeostatic affect (e.g., thirst, fatigue) and emotional affect (e.g., anger, fear).
In his earlier work Antonio Damasio used "primordial feeling" but he now prefers the term "homeostatic feeling" for this class. "The only other category of feelings I recognize is 'emotional'. Emotional feelings are experiences of emotional states. Homeostatic feelings are feelings such as hunger, thirst, pain, desire, wellbeing, as well as the continuous feelings of life itself."
Bud Craig uses "homeostatic emotion" for this class of feelings and has found that humans and anthropoid primates form an image of all of the body's unique homeostatic sensations in the brain's primary interoceptive cortex (located in the dorsal posterior insula). This image is re-represented in the mid- and anterior insula, and the anterior insula's image (modulated by input from cognitive, affective and reward-related circuits) embodies conscious awareness of the whole body's homeostatic state. A sensation re-represented in the anterior insula and that sensation's related motivation hosted in the anterior cingulate cortex form a homeostatic emotion.
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