Re: Emotions: The Easy Part

Anders Sandberg (
Tue, 19 Aug 1997 00:48:23 +0200 (MET DST)

On Mon, 18 Aug 1997, Sarah Marr wrote:

> Darren Reynolds wrote:
> >Right. Whereas in humans, the internal difference between pleasure and pain
> >is ... er, what is the internal difference in humans exactly?
> Wait a minute, there's a difference between pleasure and pain?

I have heard it, and there seems to be some neuropsychology to
support it (but this is of course still speculative) :-)

Seriously, I think both are parallel systems. Pain is quite well
understood (OK, I'm lying - but it is much better understood than
pleasure) and seems to involve a series of spinal regulatory systems
(the pain gates of the zona gelatinosa) sending signals up to the
periaqueductal gray matter (seems to control it), the activation
systems of the brainstem (esp. the locus ceruleus) and the thalamus,
where it sends both "sharp" signals to the sensory cortices ("WHERE
is the pain?") and diffuse signals to all of the brain ("THERE IS

Pleasure seems to be based in the basal forebrain (the septal region,
esp. nucleus accumbens), closely linked to the serotenergic systems,
the limbic system, hypothalamus and the medial forebrain bundle.

Note that pleasure seems to come from inside the brain, while pain
seems to come from the outside. They are also independent, you can
have great pleasure while having great pain. So my guess is that
since pain is very activating, it might enhance the pleasure
experience besides adding another "bouquet" to it; a wild speculation
might be that it makes the usual almost epileptic limbic activity
during intense pleasure even wilder.

Who said neuroscience only had medical uses? I think it can be
applied with some success in the bedroom... :-)

Anders Sandberg Towards Ascension!
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y