Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews 35 (2011) 1789–1790

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The maturation of affective neuroscience: Celebrating the research career of Jaak Panksepp
Verner P. Bingman ∗
Department of Psychology and J.P. Scott Center for Neuroscience, Mind and Behavior, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH 43403, USA

a r t i c l e
Keyword: Jaak Panksepp

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a b s t r a c t
Jaak Panksepp has been a pioneer in the burgeoning field of affective neuroscience. His visionary research has inspired numerous students, colleagues and health professionals to aspire to understand the neurobiological underpinnings of emotions and their relationship to psychiatric disorders. Bowling Green State University was honored to host a celebration of Jaak and his considerable research accomplishments, and what follows is an abbreviated biography of his career in science. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Jaak Panksepp was born in the Baltic republic of Estonia in the middle of World War II, and as difficult as those times must have been for his family, they also served as a prelude to the tenacity and courage Jaak has displayed in his career as a scientist. A 1965 graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, Jaak then proceeded to get his Ph.D. at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst in 1969, at first in the area of clinical psychology, but rapidly shifting to physiological psychology under the guidance of Jay Trowill (1939–1983), freshly arrived from finishing his Ph.D. with Neal Miller at Yale. From there Jaak proceeded to pursue several years of post-doctoral work at the University of Sussex, UK on energy balance and many other topics with David Booth, Keith Oatley, and Charles Pilcher, and especially their graduate students, Tony Dickinson and Fred Toates. In 1971 he returned to the United States and pursued another year of postdoctoral research on sleep physiology and biochemistry with Peter Morgane (1927–2010) at the Worcester Foundation for Experimental Biology. In 1972, Jaak was invited to join the faculty at Bowling Green State University by Drs. Robert Conner and John Paul Scott, moving through the ranks rapidly (with the help of a Research Scientist Development Award from NIH), and achieving his highest honor of being awarded the title of Distinguished Research Professor at BGSU in 1988. Soon thereafter, he set up an academic exchange program with the University of Salzburg, Austria, in particular with the Institutes of Zoology and Psychology that helped promote various fascinating lines of interdisciplinary research summarized in this issue of NBR. He “retired” in 1998, taught a year at the University of Michigan, and then joined the new Falk Center for Molecular Therapeutics with Dr. Joe Moskal at Northwestern University to pursue the molecular biology of brain affective systems with the aim of

∗ Tel.: +1 419 372 6984; fax: +1 419 372 6013. E-mail addresses:, 0149-7634/$ – see front matter © 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.neubiorev.2010.11.006

developing new therapeutics. In 2005, he was invited to accept the Baily Endowed Chair of Animal Well-Being Science at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Washington State University, but delayed moving there by a semester so he could fulfill an invitation to teach a short-course on Affective Neuroscience at Boston College. As a graduate student, Jaak’s conversion from clinical psychology to behavioral neuroscience was due to an appointment to a Veteran’s Administration Traineeship in 1965, which led him to work in the EEG laboratory of Anold Trehub at the Northampton VA Hospital a few miles west of Smith College (where he also taught for a while). He was ‘hooked’ by the phenomenon of self-stimulation reward, and initiated a series of elegant studies that focused on the phenomenon of brain self-stimulation, primarily in the hypothalamic region. That work led to a remarkably rich research career inspired by Jaak’s brilliant insights into the potent control subcortical hypothalamic and midbrain networks have on primal emotions and motivated behavior. Therefore, it is not surprising that early in his career Jaak carried out a number of important studies examining brain mechanisms of feeding/satiety and sleep/wake cycles. However, it was during the 80s that Jaak shifted his considerable talent as a scientist to investigate brain mechanisms regulating social attachment and social dysfunction, using principally his model of separation distress in young animals to understand psychological pain, and its implications for drug addictions and depression. It was during this time that he published, with Barbara Hermann, his watershed paper in Science “Ascending endorphinergic inhibition of distress vocalization”. The clinical implications of the discovery that endogenous opioids specifically modulate mammalian social emotions led Jaak to work closely with the autistic community as both a vocal advocate for better understanding the nature of autism and the development of important treatment interventions. Jaak’s research has always been designed with the explicit goal of better understanding the human condition, and in particular, he always had his eye on the relevance of his research for improv-

who more than anything else. it has arguably done more to legitimize the scientific investigation of emotions and their underlying neurobiology than any other piece of academic work. Jaak has identified what he believes is the most ancestral form of consciousness – raw affective experience – and offered a vision for how we can profitably proceed from that premise to build a truly mechanistic understanding of human consciousness. faculty collaborators and mental health practitioners that have been nurtured by Jaak have all had an enormous influence on discussions going on in the field of affective neuroscience and its relevance to the clinical community. In short. and conserved. the origins of positive affect are as relevant to understanding depression as the wellaccepted behavioral and neural properties of depression. together with numerous student and post-doctoral collaborators.. Jaak is currently research co-director for the Hope for Depression Research Foundation. bsp/2010/1/13/affective-neuroscience-with-jaak-panksepp-bsp65. G. This vision has already had profound philosophical implications and has influenced many fields in psychology. Jaak is a dear friend of mine. . The neurobiological level are familiar to all of us. OR colleagues who had never met Jaak organized a symposium on the “Philosophical Implications of Affective Neuroscience”. He was invited to edit a “Textbook of Biological Psychiatry” (published in 2005 by Wiley). 2011. Jaak once again revolutionized affective neuroscience with his research into play behavior and the emission of ultrasonic vocalizations in rats as an analog of laughter. PsychLit) as well as biologically oriented ones such as Pubmed. Although the idea of “laughing” rats was treated with some skepticism by some members of the behavioral neuroscience community. see Gallagher and Panksepp (2008). 89–119. is a generous and caring person whose entire career was motivated by thinking about ways to help people and build better academic environments. all the way down to the midbrain.brainsciencepodcast. Panksepp (2010).P. 1998) and Jaak’s forthcoming Archaeology of Mind: The Neuroevolutionary Sources of Human Emotions (Norton. in press) are must reads for anyone who is interested in understanding how emotional feelings and behavior arise from mammalian brain activities.1790 V. post-docs.blogspot. Panksepp. With this as premise. 245–277. http://www.html References Campell. Bingman / Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews 35 (2011) 1789–1790 ing treatment options for a range of psychiatric disorders. Science of the brain as a gateway to understanding play. For several recent interviews concerning Jaak’s work and thinking. American Journal of Play 3.g. S. it is obvious that Jaak’s legacy goes well beyond an extraordinary research career only briefly touched upon above. J. 2010. The challenges of understanding consciousness at a mechanistic. and he accepted on the condition that he could promote a basic affective-emotional approach to understanding psychiatric disorders. The success of this book cannot be overstated. and how they relate to human feelings and psychiatric issues. But with an emphasis on so-called primary process emotional networks that are concentrated in subcortical brain regions. some 400. But even this is inadequate to capture Jaak. and web interviews with Campell (2010) and Germánico (2010) and Ginger Campell with http://www.html. including clinical and cognitive psychology (at the last CogSci conference in Portland. Jaak’s genius as a scholar and a researcher can be found in any of a number of places. carried out a thorough series of experiments demonstrating that high frequency vocalizations in rats were a robust indicator of positive affect and a marvelous model system to better understand the neurobiological underpinnings of not only well-being but drug addictions and psychiatric mood disorders. For Jaak. For those of us who were present at the at the symposium celebrating the research career of Jaak Panksepp on May 21 and 22. Panksepp. How to undress the affective mind: an interview with Jaak Panksepp... The 21st century has seen Jaak move to Washington State University where he has expanded on his earlier research while at the same time broadening the conversation of affective neuroscience to the include the psychiatric community and the most elusive of neurobiological phenomenon.html. midbrain structures shaped pretty much everything he did and was the departure point for what is probably his most significant and impactful academic accomplishment. his proposed model of emotions being principally guided by evolutionary ancient. It is noteworthy that Jaak has numerous publications. which are archived in social science research servers (e. Germánico. while not pretending that the other mammals are zombies with no such experiences.. http://ilevolucionista. and on behalf of all of us who are better off for knowing him. but my favorite example would be his 1990s recognition that to understand depression one also needs to understand sources of emotional stability. especially by understanding psychological pain and pleasure. which is aspiring to support cutting-edge pre-clinical and clinical research that investigates the emotional dynamics of mammalian/human brains. I expect the best is still yet to come. Journal of Consciousness Studies 15. J. 2008.brainsciencepodcast. The same approach is also important as a way to guide neuroscientific inquiries into new anti-depressant therapies. 2010. 2010 at Bowling Green State University. Gallagher. consciousness. his 1998 book “Affective Neuroscience”. Of course Affective Neuroscience (Oxford University Press. which will be summarized in a forthcoming issue of Journal of Consciousness Studies).

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