Join getAbstract to access the summary!

The Emotional Brain

Join getAbstract to access the summary!

The Emotional Brain

The Mysterious Underpinnings of Emotional Life

Simon & Schuster,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Text available

What's inside?

Humans since the ancient Greeks have been trying to understand their emotions. This book presents the current theories.

Editorial Rating



  • Analytical
  • Innovative
  • Background


Joseph LeDoux works very hard in this book, but in many ways, his fairness and ambition get in his way. He sets out not only to explain how emotions work in the brain but also to review the neurological, philosophical, evolutionary and psychological theories that explain the emotions. LeDoux makes sure he is fair to each theory, but that means that he takes entire chapters to discuss ideas that he ultimately dismisses as stepping stones. This tactic is informative if you're interested in history, but it will only slow you down if you're looking for a practical discussion of how emotions work. In addition, despite LeDoux's careful explanations, analogies and diagrams, the theories are complex and therefore challenging. getAbstract recommends this book to patient readers seeking a strong overall background on the emotional functioning of the brain. Human resource managers and others seeking insight into people's feelings and responses will find it especially useful.


Emotions and the Brain: A New Area for Researchers

Scientists who investigated the brain used to leave emotion out of the picture. Few asked what causes emotions and feelings of intuition. However, in recent years this has shifted. Interest in emotions has spiked for a number of reasons, split-brain research among them. Scientists examining patients who had experienced accidents or illnesses that severed the connection between the two hemispheres of their brains were surprised to discover that the two portions somehow still interacted with each other. The patients' left hemispheres could respond emotionally to stimuli even though they couldn't know the processes their right hemispheres used to evaluate them.

This discovery led to seven premises about how emotions work:

  1. The brain does not have a single system that handles emotion; instead, every emotion has a different origin and purpose. For example, the emotion of fear originates in a different place in the brain than does the emotion of sexual desire. To understand the relationships between thinking and feeling, you must study them in their psychological and physiological contexts. You...

About the Author

Joseph LeDoux is a professor at New York University's Center for Neural Science and author of Synaptic Self as well as numerous academic articles on neuroscience.

Comment on this summary