António R. Damásio Quotes
“The distinction between diseases of "brain" and "mind," between "neurological" problems and "psychological" or "psychiatric" ones, is an unfortunate cultural inheritance that permeates society and medicine. It reflects a basic ignorance of the relation between brain and mind. Diseases of the brain are seen as tragedies visited on people who cannot be blamed for their condition, while diseases of the mind, especially those that affect conduct and emotion, are seen as social inconveniences for which sufferers have much to answer. Individuals are to be blamed for their character flaws, defective emotional modulation, and so on; lack of willpower is supposed to be the primary problem.”
“We use our minds not to discover facts but to hide them. One of things the screen hides most effectively is the body, our own body, by which I mean, the ins and outs of it, its interiors. Like a veil thrown over the skin to secure its modesty, the screen partially removes from the mind the inner states of the body, those that constitute the flow of life as it wanders in the journey of each day. (p.28)”
“Leaving out appraisal also would render the biological description of the phenomena of emotion vulnerable to the caricature that emotions without an appraisal phase are meaningless events. It would be more difficult to see how beautiful and amazingly intelligent emotions can be, and how powerfully they can solve problems for us.”
“The neural basis for the self, as I see it, resides with the continuous reactivation of at least two sets of representations. One set concerns representations of key events in an individual's autobiography, on the basis of which a notion of identity can be reconstructed repeatedly, by partial activation in topologically organized sensory maps. ...
In brief, the endless reactivation of updated images about our identity (a combination of memories of the past and of the planned future) constitutes a sizable part of the state of self as I understand it.
The second set of representations underlying the neural self consists of the primordial representations of an individual's body ... Of necessity, this encompasses background body states and emotional states. The collective representation of the body constitute the basis for a "concept" of self, much as a collection of representations of shape, size, color, texture, and taste can constitute the basis for the concept of orange.”
“Para mi es imposible pensar que tipo de emocion de miedo quedaria si no estuvieran presentes la sensacion de latidos acelerados o de respiracion entrecortada, ni la sensacion de labios temblorosos o de piernas debilitadas, ni de carne de gallina o de retorcijones de tripas. Puede alguien imaginarse el estado de ira sin sentir que el pecho estalla, la cara se ruboriza, los orificios nasales se dilatan, los dientes se aprietan, sin notar el impulso hacia la accion vigorosa? Puede sentirse rabia en cambio con los musculos relajados, la respiracion calmada y una cara placida?”
“Neither anguish nor the elation that love or art can
bring about are devalued by understanding some of the myriad
biological processes that make them what they are. Precisely the
opposite should be true: Our sense of wonder should increase before
the intricate mechanisms that make such magic possible. Feelings
form the base for what humans have described for millennia as the
human soul or spirit.”
“The popular antidepressant Prozac, which acts by blocking the reuptake of serotonin and probably increasing its availability, has received wide attention; the notion that low serotonin levels might be correlated with a tendency towards violence has surfaced in the popular press. The problem is that it is not the absence or low amount of serotonin per se that "causes" a certain manifestation. Serotonin is part of an exceedingly complicated mechanism which operates at the level of molecules, synapses, local circuits and systems, and in which sociocultural factors, past and present, also intervene powerfully. A satisfactory explanation can arise only from a more comprehensive view of the entire process, in which the relevant variables of a specific problem, such as depression or social adaptability, are analyzed in detail.”
“feel an emotion it is necessary but not sufficient that neural signals from viscera, from muscles and joints, and from neurotransmitter nuclei—all of which are activated during the process of emotion—reach certain subcortical nuclei and the cerebral cortex. Endocrine and other chemical signals also reach the central nervous system via the bloodstream among other routes.”
“It is not customary to refer to organisms when we talk about brain
and mind. It has been so obvious that mind arises from the activity
of neurons that only neurons are discussed as if their operation
could be independent from that of the rest of the organism. But as I
investigated disorders of memory, language, and reason in numerous
human beings with brain damage, the idea that mental activity, from
its simplest aspects to its most sublime, requires both brain and body
proper became especially compelling.”
“By now you may have concluded that the conversation was neither
about Descartes nor about philosophy, although it certainly was
about mind, brain, and body. My friend suggested it should take
place under the Sign of Descartes, since there was no way of approaching
such themes without evoking the emblematic figure who
shaped the most commonly held account of their relationship. At
this point I realized that, in a curious way, the book would be about
Descartes' Error. You will, of course, want to know what the Error
was, but for the moment I am sworn to secrecy. I promise, though,
that it will be revealed.”
António R. Damásio
- Date of birth: February 25, 1944
- Born: in Lisbon, Portugal.
- Description: Damásio studied medicine at the University of Lisbon Medical School in Portugal, where he also did his medical residency rotation and completed his doctorate. Later, he moved to the United States as a research fellow at the Aphasia Research Center in Boston. His work there on behavioral neurology was done under the supervision of Norman Geschwind.
As a researcher, Dr. Damásio's main interest is the neurobiology of the mind, especially neural systems which subserve memory, language, emotion, and decision-making. His research has helped to elucidate the neural basis for the emotions and has shown that emotions play a central role in social cognition and decision-making. Damásio has formulated the somatic markers hypothesis.
As a clinician, he and his collaborators study and treat the disorders of behavior and cognition, and movement disorders.
Damásio's books deal with the relationship between emotions and feelings, and what are their bases in the brain. His 1994 book, Descartes' Error: Emotion, Reason and the Human Brain, was nominated for the Los Angeles Times Book Award and is translated in over 30 languages. His second book, The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness, was named as one of the ten best books of 2001 by New York Times Book Review, a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year, a Library Journal Best Book of the Year, and has thirty foreign editions. Damásio's most recent book, Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow, and the Feeling Brain, was published in 2003. In it, Damásio explores philosophy and its relations to neurobiology, suggesting that it might provide guidelines for human ethics.
He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Science's Institute of Medicine, and the European Academy of Arts and Sciences. Damásio has received many awards including the Prince of Asturias Award in Science and Technology, Kappers Neuroscience Medal, the Beaumont Medal from the American Medical Association and the Reenpaa Prize in Neuroscience. He is also in the editorial board of many important journals in the field.
His current work involves the social emotions, decision neuroscience and creativity.
Prof. Damásio is married to Dr. Hanna Damásio, his colleague and co-author of several works.