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Emotion: Pleasure & pain in the brain (Morten L. Kringelbach & Helen Phillips)

Morten L. Kringelbach & Helen Phillips

Oxford University Press (2014)

IBSN: 978 0 19 959349 1 (Pbk)

Morten L. Kringelbach, D.Phil., is the director of the Hedonia: TrygFonden Research Group – a transnational research group based both in Oxford, UK and Aarhus, Denmark. He is a Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford and a Professor at Aarhus University, Denmark, as well as Senior Research Fellow and College Lecturer in Neuroscience at the Queen’s College, University of Oxford.

Helen Phillips, D.Phil., is a journalist, writer, and consultant, specialising in neuroscience and life sciences for print, online, and broadcast media. She obtained her first degree in Natural Sciences from the University of Cambridge and was awarded a DPhil in Neuroscience from the University of Sussex.

The authors observe that many people become interested in psychology as a means to understand the emotions that move us as individuals and others. They may also state that material on emotion is often only found in advanced psychological studies and does not always include those recent advances in understanding the underlying brain basis of emotion. This underrepresented area, they declare, is the motivation for this book noting, that it also relies heavily on the techniques of neuroscience to understand emotions.

This is an introductory book to the subject which is mainly aimed at students. It is well referenced, well laid out with good and clear examples and diagrams. At the end of every chapter are a number of questions which the reader may engage in, for instance, will neuroscience ever explain emotions? Some of the areas the book covers include contrasting normal emotional processing with maladaptive responses, showing how the study of normal behaviour can illuminate our understanding of psychiatric conditions and in addition providing a unique insight into the neural basis of emotion. They do this while taking care to present these insights in the context of the wider study of psychology.

The format of Kringelbach and Phillips' book starts with proposed definitions of an emotion throughout history and includes Socrates, Aristotle, Freud, Skinner, Ekman and Zimbardo among others. It then has a complete chapter on the most commonly used individual emotions along with biological explanations. There is another chapter completely dedicated to social emotional development and another on the most common disorders and the origins and biology of mental illness. They conclude by looking at the future of emotions and noting that there will be new ways to think about treating mental illness.

There are also sections on the nature of emotions (pleasure and Pain), emotion and cognition which includes attention, perception and memory in emotions. Much of this book has placed the study of emotions in historical and evolutionary context. It also discusses emotional disorders central to clinical psychology. This is a very useful and concise introduction to emotion.

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