Neurologists learned about how emotion originates in the brain from people like Phineas Gage, who had a spike driven into his head. By learning about the specific impairment of a range of emotions, scientists learned the origins of how brains feel things.
From a neural standpoint, memory structures "are in of themselves rather dumb," says Damasio. "It’s not that they know anything consciously. What they know is they have a sort of internal testimony of the simultaneous occurrence of certain things at a certain point."
"We do have a measure of control," says Damasio, "but it is not true that we have full control and it is not true that when we are executing an action we are necessarily controlling it at that moment consciously."
Dr. Antonio Damasio is a renowned neuroscientist who direct's the USC Brain and Creativity Institute. Before that he was the Head of Neurology at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. His research focuses on the neurobiology of mind and behavior, with an emphasis on emotion, decision-making, memory, communication, and creativity. His research has helped describe the neurological origins of emotions and has shown how emotions affect cognition and decision-making. He is the author of a number of books, including "Self Comes to Mind: Constructing the Conscious Brain," which will be published in November, 2010. Dr. Damasio is also the 2010 winner of the Honda Prize, one of the most important international awards for scientific achievement.
Dr. Damasio is a Big Think Delphi Fellow.