#329 – The Emotional Foundation of Mind with Jaak Panksepp, PhD


Dr. Jaak Panksepp is Baily Endowed Professor of Animal Well-Being Science at the College of Veterinary Medicine, Washington State University, and founder of the field of Affective Neuroscience. Along with many students and colleagues, he has published over 400 scientific articles, chapters and reviews devoted to elucidating the basic mechanisms of motivations and emotions as well as the fundamental nature of consciousness and self-representation in the brain. Along with psychoanalyst, Lucy Biven he is the author of the 2012 book The Archeology of Mind: Neuroevolutionary Origins of Human Emotions, as well as earlier books including Affective Neuroscience: the Foundation of Human and Animal Emotions (Oxford, 1998), editor of a Textbook of Biological Psychiatry (Wiley, 2004) and seven other books.

His current research is devoted to the analysis of emotional behaviors and their relations to models of psychiatric disorders. His main research interest is unraveling the nature of primary-process emotions in the mammalian brain— SEEKING, FEAR, RAGE, LUST, CARE, PANIC and PLAY—and seeking linkages to new clinical insights. His work led to a new treatment of autistic children and current work is devoted to non-pharmacological therapies for ADHD and depression. Novel anti-depressants and anti-suicide agents are currently being clinically evaluated.

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A psychology podcast by David Van Nuys, Ph.D.

copyright 2013: David Van Nuys, Ph.D.



  1. Peter B. Todd
    Posted December 6, 2012 at 11:40 pm | Permalink

    Jaak Panksepp has made it abundantly clear in this remarkable interview and in his publications that in an era of ruthless neural reductionism, a radical materialism leaves little causal room for mentality in the brain-body-environment equation. While elucidating the neural correlates of so many mental mechanisms and affective processes, he avoids the fallacy of treating mind in its conscious and unconscious aspects as epiphenomenal and causally inefficacious by products of brain processes.

    Such a dual aspect monist epistemology of mind makes intelligible the role of consciousness as the mirror in which the universe reflects upon itself and the transcendence of biological by an emergent psychosocial or cultural evolution, outlined by evolutionary biologist Julian Huxley and palaeontologist Teilhard de Chardin.

    As I argue in my book “The Individuation of God” consciousness evolves the brain to create culture which in turn stimulates mental development and with it, the search for meaning and an experience of a numinous dimension implicit to the evolutionary process which is represented in brain development. Perhaps this is what Carl Jung had in mind in his formulation of the archetypes as cosmic ordering and regulating principles in collaboration with Wolfgang Pauli.
    The link to my book is: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1888602554/ref=as_li_ss_il?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=1888602554&linkCode=as2&tag=shrinkrapradi-20

  2. gloria
    Posted December 17, 2012 at 5:21 am | Permalink

    Another awesome interview Dave! I was astonished to hear the degree to which Jaak’s ideas are dismissed as being anthropomorphic. Anyone who has had close relationships with animals – wild or domesticated – cannot fail to observe real emotions in them. Perhaps there is some resistance to accepting the idea that we are still basically animals ourselves.

    I was particularly delighted by Jaak’s description (well done for eliciting this from him Dave) of the way in which he and his colleagues discovered the pleasure rats take in being tickled. This kind of experimentation takes more than scientific curiosity – it takes respect for and rapport with our fellow creatures. To fail to correlate findings such as these with human emotional responses would be irresponsible in my view.

    I listened to this interview directly after finishing the editing of the recording of our most recent Jung meeting here in Adelaide, South Australia. The topic of the talk was ‘Shame’ and the speaker, Craig Delaney, started out the talk with references to the exhibition of shame in animals.

    After listening to Jaak’s interview, I went back and reviewed what Craig had said and thought it might be worthwhile quoting a point of view from the Jungian perspective.

    “So when we’re thinking of shame and our own shame, it’s actually very helpful to realise we’re part animal and that we will have responses that are physical and emotional and as raw as animal’s responses and that there’s nothing wrong with that. As civilised beings we think there’s something terribly wrong with that. We shouldn’t be raw in our responses and experiences in life. We should be very cool, calm and collected – shouldn’t we?”

    May Jaak’s work get the recognition it deserves and kudos to you Dave for your part in publicising it.

  3. gloria
    Posted December 18, 2012 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    PS Thanks also to Gemma Sidney for doing the transcript – and so super fast.

  4. Dr. Michael Ocana
    Posted January 30, 2013 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    I am a new listener to your podcast series. I am an adolsescent psychiatrist and program director for an inpatient psychiatry ward for youth. I have just devoured this interview and the one with Robert Scaer.
    I can see I will be a devoted follower.
    Great interviews and fantastic work! My seeking system is lit up like a christmas tree! (I have a blog where I have summed up some ideas about neurodeveloment and psychiatry – http://teenshrinktalk.blogspot.ca/

  5. Gustav B.
    Posted May 9, 2013 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    A video of Jaak Panksepp tickling rats:

  6. Liane Durra
    Posted August 18, 2013 at 11:14 pm | Permalink

    Great interview, thank you! I am looking forward to meeting and hearing Dr Panksepp next week at the NPSA congress being held in Cape Town, South Africa.

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