Cartesian theories on the passions, the pineal gland and the pathogenesis of affective disorders: an early forerunner
Área/s de conocimientoPsicología
Materia/s Unesco3201.05 Psicología Clínica
The relationship between physical and functional alterations in the pineal gland, the ‘ passions’ (emotions or feelings) and psychopathology has been a constant throughout the history of medicine. One of the most influential authors on this subject was Rene´ Descartes, who discussed it in his work The Treatise on the Passions of the Soul (1649). Descartes believed that ‘ passions’ were sensitive movements that the soul, located in the pineal gland, experienced due to its union with the body, by circulating animal spirits. Descartes described sadness as one of the six primitive passions of the soul, which leads to melancholy if not remedied. Cartesian theories had a great deal of influence on the way that mental pathologies were considered throughout the entire 17th century and during much of the 18th century, but the link between the pineal gland and psychiatric disorders it was definitively highlighted in the 20th century, with the discovery of melatonin in 1958. The recent development of a new pharmacological agent acting through melatonergic receptors (agomelatine) has confirmed the close link between the pineal gland and affective disorders.