Brain High Low

Today I listened to a podcast (the podcast is in German) about the study of Emotions. The podcast is great and highly recommendable.

Two more comments:
Jaak Panksepp seems a cool guy: he tickles rats for science. Here is a video of him tickling rats (I’ve watched only the first minute of the video.). When tickled they become all trustful and friendly. Apparently they even burst out in ultra-sonic squeaky laughter. I will remember this technique and try it on my brother’s hamster.

All this is of course no proof of rats experiencing pleasure the same way humans do. Just because we cannot even know whether our best friend is experiencing pleasure the way we do (the old philosophical zombie problem). Though in the same Podcast Bud Craig from the University of Phoenix gave an argument, which annoyed me. He said something along the lines: rats surely do not experience pleasure the same way people do, because they don’t have higher brain regions.
So what, Bud, do you mean by higher brain regions? The prefrontal cortex? Rats have that. Six layered cortex? Rats have that too.
Whatever Bud meant, I think he used the wrong term. Higher brain regions is not only misleading but utterly WRONG. Usually people refer with ‘higher’ to the cortex as being the latest invention of evolution and its gift to the pride of creation: humans (if sarcasm does not work in blogs, announcing sarcasm does).
Though it turns out that the cortex is neither necessary for emotion nor for learning. Children born without a cortex are capable of expressing emotions, interacting socially and recognizing places and people (link to an article about this – it’s a pdf).

The cortex is not high. There is no hierarchy in the brain. So stop playing high-low with brains!