'Our Brain constantly interacts with the internal and external environment. It processes the information received and produces appropriate responses to it. For example if you touch a hot utensil kept on the table, your brain receives 'sensory' signals and produces a 'motor' response and you withdraw your hand. However in addition to producing a motor response the brain also produces responses of a much higher order. These involve the processes of the mind - The way you think 'cognition', The way you feel 'affect or emotion' and the way you act 'behavior'. Hence in the above example the brain processes may make you think - "Who kept this hot utensil here so carelessly!" (cognition), "You may suddenly feel angry !" (emotion), and "You may be careful the next time before touching an utensil kept on the table" (Behavior). These 3 processes of the mind form important constituents of 'cognitive-neuroscience'.
Cognitive-neuroscience is the scientific study of the biological substrates and brain processes underlying these essential mental processes. Understanding how different cognitive processes occur in the brain and how they relate to each other is important to unraveling the mysteries behind the 'mind body relationship'.
Ability to identify and express emotion is a unique ability of human beings and important in social contexts. Perhaps that is why we are also called as social animals. Parts of brain associated with thinking and reasoning are closely connected to the areas which processes emotions. People with psychiatric disorders are known to have problems in identifying and labeling emotions. Regulating and controlling emotions can be deficient in many stress related disorders (People with depression and anxiety may cry and feel afraid easily). Certain people by nature may be emotionally sensitive or unstable and may experience mood swings or problems in controlling and expressing anger. Hence in conditions of stress people may take decisions guided by emotions rather than by logic and reasoning.
TRENDS: To assess ability to identify emotions in our Indian cultural context, Dr Rishikesh V Behere has developed Tool for Recognition of Emotions in Neuropsychiatric DisorderS (TRENDS). This is a novel culturally validated tool for assessing ability to recognize emotions in mental health disorders. In research studies using this tool we were able to demonstrate significant deficits in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Especially people with schizophrenia were not able to identify correctly emotion of fear, while people with bipolar disorder had problems identifying anger and these were associated with difficulties in socio-occupational functioning.
ART (Affect Recognition training): Recognizing the importance of problems with emotion processing and regulation, in various mental health disorders, training clients in labeling, identifying, regulating emotions can be an important aspect of treatment which along with conventional treatments can enhance outcomes and recovery. We have been developing a module involving affect recognition training and testing it in a research study and hope that this would prove a useful mode of treatment in emotional disorders.