Interdisciplinary Research on Emotions in Neuroscience and Philosophy

Subproject 2: Existential Feelings and Empirical Science

So far, existential feelings have only been discussed from the perspective of phenomenology and psychopathology, if at all. By reading the available literature, one could get the idea that it is hardly possible to investigate existential feelings empirically. Thus, the second subproject analyzes the question in how far this class of affective phenomena can be made accessible to empirical research. In order to do so, a differentiating analysis of the heterogenous group of existential feelings (which is the goal of the first subproject) is not sufficient - it is also necessary to find out whether and how they can be quantified. It is the goal of this subproject to find solutions to these problems by investigating the basic possibilities and borders of the research on affective phenomena in general and in particular. The main part of the second subproject is a neuroimaging study on a paradigmatic existential feeling: the phenomenon of depersonalization/derealization. This phenomenon is a psychological disorder which is characterized by a feeling of detachedness and alienation of one's own self and the environment (cf. Heidenreich et al. 2006). With this object of investigation, we connect to our research on "detachment" in previous studies (in animal emotionale I) on emotion regulation: Derealization can be seen as a form of involuntary, generalized detachment. In particular, our goal is to investigate the neural basis of the depersonalization- (DP) and derealization-syndrome (DR) with the help of two neuroradiological neuroimaging techniques.

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