The Science of Emotion: An Interview with Jaak Panksepp

Dr. Jaak Panksepp is a renowned neuroscientist and psychobiologist, and Emeritus Professor of the Department of Psychology at Bowling Green State University. He is the author of Affective Neuroscience: The Foundations of Human and Animal Emotions (1998) as well as Archaeology of Mind: Neuroevolutionary Origins of Human Emotions (with Lucy Bevin) (2012).

In describing his research, Dr. Panksepp notes, “My goal for the past half-century has been to understand the neural nature of primal human emotional feelings by studying evolutionarily related feelings in animal models…It is becoming clear that these primal emotional systems, SEEKING (enthusiasm), RAGE(anger), FEAR, (anger), CARE, (maternal devotion) PANIC (sadness) and PLAY (social joy), are evolutionarily related across mammalian species, and three—namely those that mediate enthusiasm, sadness and social joy are especially important for understanding the genesis of depression.”

In these two DVDs, Dr. Panksepp discusses the basic emotional systems, the neural foundations of awareness, experience, and dreaming, and the implications of his findings for clinicians, educators, and parents. His deep understanding of the neurosciences and of animal and human emotions has already contributed significantly to the treatment of depression. The conversation is lively, illuminating, and at times, even humorous, as for example, when Dr Panksepp demonstrates how he “discovered’ laughter in rats, for which he is well-known in the popular press.

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