Homeostatic feeling

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Homeostatic feeling is a class of feelings (e.g. thirst, fatigue, pain, desire, malaise, well-being) that inform us about our physiological condition.[1] In his earlier work Antonio Damasio used "primordial feeling" but he now prefers the term "homeostatic feeling" for the class.[2][3]

Jaak Panksepp identified homeostatic feeling as one of three primary classes of affect:

  • homeostatic affect: e.g., thirst, fatigue
  • sensory affect: e.g., touch, warmth
  • emotional affect: e.g., anger, fear.[4]

Some homeostatic feelings motivate specific behavior aimed at maintaining the body in its ideal state. For example, hunger motivates eating, fatigue motivates resting and hyperthermia motivates stepping into the shade.[5][6][7]

Sheep respond to hunger, fatigue and hyperthermia by grazing and resting in the shade of a tree

Derek Denton called these motivating homeostatic feelings "primordial emotions" and defined them 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."[8]

Neuroanatomist Arthur Craig called these motivating homeostatic feelings "homeostatic emotions" and 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 (modified by input from cognitive, affective and reward-related circuits) plays a role in conscious awareness of the whole body's homeostatic state. A sensation re-represented in the anterior insula and that sensation's related motivation (involving neural activity in the anterior cingulate cortex and other regions) form a homeostatic emotion.[9]


Derek Denton proposed that primordial emotions are the likely incubators of consciousness in evolution; that a kind of non-reflective consciousness evolved along with these feelings and before the emergence of cognition. This opposes the view put by Edelman and others that consciousness emerged after the development of cognitive processes such as the ability to create a scene from diverse sensory inputs.[10]

Denton saw the evolution of consciousness as a gradual, continuous process, beginning in the brain's most primitive regions with non-reflective consciousness of instincts, followed by the emergence of reflective consciousness of the sensations and impulses that comprise these instincts, then reflective consciousness of surroundings evolves, followed by the emergence of reflective consciousness of memories and behavioural options.[10]

Antonio and Hanna Damasio, too, observe, "It is likely that homeostatic feelings were the inaugural phenomena of consciousness in evolution ..."[11] and Antonio Damasio in his 2021 book, "Feeling and Knowing", argues that without ongoing awareness of our homeostatic state, no other mode of consciousness (such as awareness of surroundings, memories and self) is possible.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Damasio, Antonio; Damasio, Hanna (2022-07-29). "Homeostatic feelings and the biology of consciousness". Brain: A Journal of Neurology. 145 (7): 2231–2235. doi:10.1093/brain/awac194. ISSN 1460-2156. PMID 35640272.
  2. ^ Ratcliffe, Matthew; Stephan, Achim (2014). Depression, Emotion and the Self. London: Andrews UK. ISBN 978-1845407469.
  3. ^ Damasio, Antonio; Damasio, Hanna (2022-05-30). "Homeostatic feelings and the biology of consciousness". Brain. 145 (7): 2231–2235. doi:10.1093/brain/awac194. ISSN 0006-8950. PMID 35640272.
  4. ^ Ellis, Ralph D.; Zachar, Peter (2012). Categorical Versus Dimensional Models of Affect: A Seminar on the Theories of Panksepp and Russell. John Benjamins Publishing. p. 244. ISBN 978-90-272-4157-3.
  5. ^ Craig, A.D. (Bud) (2003). "Interoception: The sense of the physiological condition of the body" (PDF). Current Opinion in Neurobiology. 13 (4): 500–505. doi:10.1016/S0959-4388(03)00090-4. PMID 12965300. S2CID 16369323.
  6. ^ Derek A. Denton (8 June 2006). The Primordial Emotions: The Dawning of Consciousness. Oxford University Press. p. 7. ISBN 978-0-19-920314-7.
  7. ^ Craig, A.D. (Bud) (2008). "Interoception and emotion: A neuroanatomical perspective". In Lewis, M.; Haviland-Jones, J.M.; Feldman Barrett, L. (eds.). Handbook of Emotion (3 ed.). New York: The Guildford Press. pp. 272–288. ISBN 978-1-59385-650-2. Retrieved 6 September 2009.
  8. ^ Denton DA, McKinley MJ, Farrell M, Egan GF (June 2009). "The role of primordial emotions in the evolutionary origin of consciousness". Conscious Cogn. 18 (2): 500–14. doi:10.1016/j.concog.2008.06.009. PMID 18701321. S2CID 14995914.
  9. ^ Emeran A. Mayer (August 2011). "Gut feelings: the emerging biology of gut–brain communication". Nature Reviews Neuroscience. 12 (8): 453–466. doi:10.1038/nrn3071. PMC 3845678. PMID 21750565.
  10. ^ a b Jablonka E & Ginsberg S (2006) Book review. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 13(6) pp. 97–122
  11. ^ Damasio, Antonio; Damasio, Hanna (2023-02-17). "Feelings Are the Source of Consciousness". Neural Computation. 35 (3): 277–286. doi:10.1162/neco_a_01521. ISSN 0899-7667. PMID 35896152. S2CID 251133063.
  12. ^ Damasio, Antonio R. (2021). Feeling & knowing : making minds conscious (1st ed.). New York. ISBN 978-1-5247-4755-8. OCLC 1200832168.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)