Cook: What is known about crying in the animal world?
Why Humans Like to Cry : Tragedy, Evolution, and the Brain (Reprint) [Paperback]
Trimble: Tears are necessary to keep the eyeball moist, and contain proteins and other substances which maintain the eye healthy and to combat infection. Tearing occurs in many animals in response to irritants which get in the eye, and in some settings tears fall for simple anatomical facts. When an elephant is standing, tears run down the trunk, but when lying down, the flow is impeded and tears may be seen coming from the eyes.
It may be that animals that are abused shed tears, from pain, although observations of this are rare. Cook: How is crying different in humans? Trimble: Humans cry for many reasons, but crying for emotional reasons and crying in response to aesthetic experiences are unique to us.
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The former is most associated with loss and bereavement, and the art forms that are most associated with tears are music, literature and poetry. There are very few people who cry looking at paintings, sculptures or lovely buildings.
But we also have tears of joy the associated feelings of which last a shorter time than crying in the other circumstances. Cook: What do you find most interesting about the neuroscience of crying? Trimble: If it is the case that only humans cry emotionally, then there must have been a time in human evolution when tears took on an additional meaning to their hitherto biological functions , namely as a signal of distress, and a cipher for suffering.
In my book I discuss at when in the past our ancestors may come to possess this trait. I suggest that this is connected with the dawning of self-consciousness, with the development of theory of mind, and the realisation that the self and others can disappear. Attachment emotionally to others, with the development of sophisticated facial gestures associated with suffering, and with loss and bereavement ensued. All this before the development of our elegant propositional language. The emotional responses became largely unconscious and innate, and identification of tears as a signal for such distress was an important addition the so called Social brain, the circuitry of which can now be identified in the human brain.
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I also discuss the differences between the neuroanatomy of the human brain and that of chimpanzees and other closely related primates, which may explain our ability to respond emotionally with tears to the arts. The brain areas involved are widespread, but link our cerebral cortex especially anteriorly with those areas associated with the representation of emotion — so called limbic structures and our autonomic system. The latter co-ordinates heart rate, breathing, and vocal output, all of which collaborate in the expression of emotion with tears.
Cook: You mention "theory of mind" and crying. Why have we developed art forms — most powerfully, music — which move us to sadness and tears? His exploration examines the connections with other distinctively human features: the development of language, self-consciousness, religious practices, and empathy. Neuroanatomy and neurophysiology of the brain have uncovered unique human characteristics; mirror neurones, for example, explain why we unconsciously imitate actions and behaviour. Whereas Nietzsche argued that artistic tragedy was born with the ancient Greeks, Trimble places its origins far earlier.
His neurophysiological and evolutionary insights shed fascinating light onto this enigmatic part of our humanity.
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Learn how your comment data is processed. Email Address. July 4, 0. Crying 3. The Neuroanatomy and Neurophysiology of Crying 4. Evolution 5. Tragedy and Tears 6. Tearful Logic 7. See All Customer Reviews. Shop Books.
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