The dynamic opponent relativity model: an integration and extension of capacity theory and existing theoretical perspectives on the neuropsychology of arousal and emotion
Arousal theory as discussed within the present paper refers to those mechanisms and neural systems involved in central nervous system activation and more specifically the systems involved in cortical activation. Historical progress in the evolution of arousal theory has led to a better understanding of the functional neural systems involved in arousal or activation processes and ultimately contributed much to our current theories of emotion. Despite evidence for the dynamic interplay between the left and right cerebral hemispheres, the concepts of cerebral balance and dynamic activation have been emphasized in the neuropsychological literature. A conceptual model is proposed herein that incorporates the unique contributions from multiple neuropsychological theories of arousal and emotion. It is argued that the cerebral hemispheres may play oppositional roles in emotion partially due to the differences in their functional specializations and in their persistence upon activation. In the presence of a threat or provocation, the right hemisphere may activate survival relevant responses partially derived from hemispheric specializations in arousal and emotional processing, including the mobilization of sympathetic drive to promote heightened blood pressure, heart rate, glucose mobilization and respiratory support necessary for the challenge. Oppositional processes and mechanisms are discussed, which may be relevant to the regulatory control over the survival response; however, the capacity of these systems is necessarily limited. A limited capacity mechanism is proposed, which is familiar within other physiological systems, including that providing for the prevention of muscular damage under exceptional demand. This capacity theory is proposed, wherein a link may be expected between exceptional stress within a neural system and damage to the neural system. These mechanisms are proposed to be relevant to emotion and emotional disorders. Discussion is provided on the possible role of currently applied therapeutic interventions for emotional disorders.