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Could anyone tell me if there are any serious neuroscientific mechanisms that have been proposed to explain how feelings of body states take on a positive or negative character (valence)? An example biocomputational approach based on Bayesian inference can be found here. Also related to the Bayesian brain: there is evidence that dopamine communicates prediction error, which has been proposed as a unifying principle for cognition - so I was wondering whether there were any comprehensive theories applying predictive coding to emotion (i.e. valence as prediction error of interoceptive (body) perception). Of course, any theories of valence with similarly broad import would be interesting too.

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There is no such universally accepted model. It seems to me that this a specific instance of the hard problem: how can matter have a subjective experience at all?

Of course we know positive experience is associated with dopaminergic action, and often the mechanism has the evolutionary function of surviving and reproducing... and we can argue the same for noxious stimuli - they signal danger in the environment and lead to aversive behaviors.

But this still ignores the phenomenology step, between stimulus and behavior; the nature of the subjective experience. Friston's approach is interesting. I wonder if there is any relationship to be found betweem it and Tononi's model of consciousness (integrated informatiom theory).

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  • $\begingroup$ Oooh, the hard problem! With regard to that, I'm one of those people that believes that "to explain is to explain away". One day science will get there - perhaps the empirical evidence for IIT will start piling up! However, I was only concerned about functional properties of emotion specifically with respect to how/where valence of somatic states is determined, for now. Dopamine release is correlated with pleasure/reward, but why does that release occur? There is evidence that dopamine communicates prediction error [1], which has been proposed as a unifying principle for cognition, so I was $\endgroup$ – user6682 Sep 17 '14 at 5:53
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    $\begingroup$ wondering whether someone had proposed a comprehensive explanation of emotional valence in those terms (in terms of interoceptive prediction, for instance). [1]nature.com/neuro/journal/v16/n7/full/nn.3448.html $\endgroup$ – user6682 Sep 17 '14 at 5:55
  • $\begingroup$ P.S.: I have no idea how/why the Bayesian brain is related to IIT (I'm assuming you mean "Friston's approach" = Bayesian coding), and I surely won't know any more than you, considering your current occupation =). $\endgroup$ – user6682 Sep 17 '14 at 9:05
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    $\begingroup$ More specifically, I meant the free energy principle. If you haven't seen the original paper by Frist, then here! $\endgroup$ – Keegan Keplinger Sep 17 '14 at 12:17
  • $\begingroup$ I've heard the term sprinkled throughout various papers on the predictive brain, but haven't seen this - thanks! $\endgroup$ – user6682 Sep 17 '14 at 12:23
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With regard to the body perception question, I hope you have read this (doi: 10.1073/pnas.1321664111)

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  • $\begingroup$ Yes, I've seen this study, interesting mapping of body states to the common emotion categories. It begs the question of how two cases of raised heat in the chest area can, in the one case be plesurable (pride), and in the other case be aversive (anger). $\endgroup$ – user6682 Sep 22 '14 at 5:22
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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to cogsci.SE! It's generally preferable to include citation/DOIs when possible, in case of link decay. $\endgroup$ – Krysta Sep 22 '14 at 12:06

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