Building a Model of the Insular Cortex – Part 7: The James-Lange Theory

In developing a model of the emotional regulation in the Insular Cortex it is almost impossible to continue without reference to one of the landmark theories on emotions – the James-Lange theory. William James was an American physician and psychologist who wrote the widely regarded Principles of Psychology textbook and other landmark texts on psychological phenomenon with an emphasis on introspection. Carl Lange was a physician who made important contributions to Neurology and Psychiatry including the James-Lange Theory.

Essentially the James-Lange Theory states that we perceive environmental stimuli which trigger physiological responses which in turn lead to emotional experiences. In other words our body reacts physiologically and only then do we have an emotional response. Our emotions are in effect responses to the world around us rather than being triggered by an inner self. If this theory is correct then we do not choose to be joyful but rather we experience a ‘joyful’ stimulus which then triggers a physiological response and then the emotion of joy. William James put it in these terms

Our natural way of thinking about these standard emotions is that the mental perception of some fact excites the mental affection called the emotion and this latter state of mind gives rise to the bodily expression. My thesis on the contrary is that the bodily changes follow directly the perception of the exciting fact, and that our feeling of the same changes as they occur is the emotion. Common sense says, we lose our fortune, are sorry and weep; we meet a bear, are frightened and run; we are insulted by a rival, are angry and strike. The hypothesis here to be defended says that this order of sequence is incorrect that the one mental state is not immediately induced by the other, that the bodily manifestation must first be interposed between and that the more rational statement is that we feel sorry because we cry, angry because we strike, afraid because we tremble and not that we cry, strike or tremble because we are sorry, angry or fearful as the case may be. Without the bodily states following on the perception, the latter would be purely cognitive in form, pale, colorless, destitute of emotional warmth. We might then see the bear, and judge it best to run, receive the insult and deem it right to strike, but we should not actually feel afraid or angry

There are of course many critiques of this theory (e.g this one) but the James-Lange theory serves as a useful starting point for discussion of the emotions. In terms of this model it would also feature as one of the higher level concepts in the hierarchy of assumptions within the model. The opposite view can be taken – that the emotions direct the physiological response and this can certainly be considered in model-building. However the model resulting from this alternative consideration would take a different direction. The point is that a great multitude of different models are possible depending on the decisions taken about which theories or assumptions to incorporate.

In the model building process I will remain flexible, keeping alternative assumptions or theories in reserve. The larger model (or in one sense the gestalt) will be significantly influenced by these decisions.


Insular Cortex Resources on this Site

Developing a Model of the Insular Cortex and Emotional Regulation: Part 1

Building a Model of the Insular Cortex – Part 2

Building a Model of the Insular Cortex – Part 3

Building a Model of the Insular Cortex – Part 4

Building a Model of the Insular Cortex – Part 5

Building a Model of the Insular Cortex – Part 6

What does the Insular Cortex Do Again?

Insular Cortex Infarction in Acute Middle Cerebral Artery Territory Stroke

The Insular Cortex and Neuropsychiatric Disorders

The Relationship of Blood Pressure to Subcortical Lesions

Pathobiology of Visceral Pain

Interoception and the Insular Cortex

A Case of Neurogenic T-Wave Inversion

Video Presentations on a Model of the Insular Cortex

MR Visualisations of the Insula

The Subjective Experience of Pain

How Do You Feel? Interoception: The Sense of the Physiological Condition of the Body

How Do You Feel – Now? The Anterior Insula and Human Awareness

Role of the Insular Cortex in the Modulation of Pain

The Insular Cortex and Frontotemporal Dementia

A Case of Infarct Connecting the Insular Cortex and the Heart

The Insular Cortex: Part of the Brain that Connects Smell and Taste?

Stuttered Swallowing and the Insular Cortex

YouTubing the Insular Cortex (Brodmann Areas 13, 14 and 52)

New Version of Video on Insular Cortex Uploaded

Index: There are indices for the TAWOP site here and here Twitter: You can follow ‘The Amazing World of Psychiatry’ Twitter by clicking on this link. Podcast: You can listen to this post on Odiogo by clicking on this link (there may be a small delay between publishing of the blog article and the availability of the podcast). It is available for a limited period. TAWOP Channel: You can follow the TAWOP Channel on YouTube by clicking on this link. Responses: If you have any comments, you can leave them below or alternatively e-mail Disclaimer: The comments made here represent the opinions of the author and do not represent the profession or any body/organisation. The comments made here are not meant as a source of medical advice and those seeking medical advice are advised to consult with their own doctor. The author is not responsible for the contents of any external sites that are linked to in this blog.


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