Jaak Panksepp

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Jaak Panksepp
Jaak Panksepp (on the right) at the promotion of honorary doctors at the University of Tartu (December 2004).
BornJune 5, 1943
DiedApril 18, 2017(2017-04-18) (aged 73)
Alma materUniversity of Pittsburgh (BS, 1965)
University of Massachusetts, Amherst (MS, 1967) (PhD, 1969)
Known forPioneer in affective neuroscience
AwardsOrder of the White Star
Scientific career
FieldsPsychology, Neuropsychopharmacology, Affective neuroscience, Behavioral neuroscience

Jaak Panksepp (June 5, 1943 – April 18, 2017) was an Estonian-American neuroscientist and psychobiologist who coined the term "affective neuroscience", the name for the field that studies the neural mechanisms of emotion.[1][2][3] He was the Baily Endowed Chair of Animal Well-Being Science for the Department of Veterinary and Comparative Anatomy, Pharmacology, and Physiology at Washington State University's College of Veterinary Medicine, and Emeritus Professor of the Department of Psychology at Bowling Green State University. He was known in the popular press for his research on laughter in non-human animals.[4][5]

Early life and education[edit]

Panksepp was born in Tartu, Estonia on June 5, 1943. His family escaped the ravages of post-WWII Soviet occupation by moving to the United States when he was very young.[6] He initially studied at University of Pittsburgh in 1964, and then completed a Ph.D. at the University of Massachusetts.[7]


Panksepp resisted establishment forces in animal research, the most notably B. F. Skinner’s school of behaviorism which held that human emotions are irrelevant and animal emotions suspect. He was ridiculed for wanting to study the neuroscience of affect, and he struggled to find research funding.[8] Panksepp conducted many experiments; in one with rats, he found that the rats showed signs of fear when cat hair was placed close to them, even though they had never been anywhere near a cat.[9] Panksepp theorized from this experiment that it is possible laboratory research could routinely be skewed due to researchers with pet cats.[9] He attempted to replicate the experiment using dog hair, but the rats displayed no signs of fear.[9]

In the 1999 documentary Why Dogs Smile and Chimpanzees Cry, he is shown to comment on the research of joy in rats: the tickling of domesticated rats made them produce a high-pitch sound which was hypothetically identified as laughter.

Panksepp is also well known for publishing a paper in 1979 suggesting that opioid peptides could play a role in the etiology of autism, which proposed that autism may be "an emotional disturbance arising from an upset in the opiate systems in the brain".[10]

In his book Affective Neuroscience, Panksepp described how efficient learning may be conceptually achieved through the generation of subjectively experienced neuroemotional states that provide simple internalized codes of biological value that correspond to major life priorities .[11][12]

Primary affective systems[edit]

Panksepp carved out seven biologically inherited primary affective systems called SEEKING (expectancy), FEAR (anxiety), RAGE (anger), LUST (sexual excitement), CARE (nurturance), PANIC/GRIEF (sadness), and PLAY (social joy). He proposed what is known as "core-SELF" to be generating these affects.[13]


Panksepp died on April 18, 2017, from cancer at his home in Bowling Green, Ohio, at the age of 73.[14]


  • Panksepp, J., and Davis, K. (2018). The Emotional Foundations of Personality: A Neurobiological and Evolutionary Approach. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. W W Norton page
  • Narvaez, D., Panksepp, J., Schore, A., & Gleason, T. (Eds.) (2013). "Evolution, Early Experience and Human Development: From Research to Practice and Policy". New York: Oxford University Press. [1]
  • Panksepp, J., and Biven, L. (2012). The Archaeology of Mind: Neuroevolutionary Origins of Human Emotion. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. W W Norton page
  • Panksepp J (Ed.) (2004) A Textbook of Biological Psychiatry, New York, Wiley
  • Panksepp, J. (1998). Affective Neuroscience: The Foundations of Human and Animal Emotions. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Panksepp, J (Ed.) (1996). Advances in Biological Psychiatry, Vol. 2, Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.
  • Panksepp, J (Ed.) (1995). Advances in Biological Psychiatry, Vol. 1, Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.
  • Clynes, M. and Panksepp, J. (Eds.) (1988). Emotions and Psychopathology, New York, Plenum Press.
  • Morgane, J. P., and Panksepp, J. (Eds.). (1981). Handbook of the Hypothalamus: Vol. 4 : Part B. Behavioral Studies of the Hypothalamus. New York: Marcel Dekker, Inc.
  • Morgane, J. P., and Panksepp, J. (Eds.). (1980). Handbook of the Hypothalamus: Vol. 3 : Part A. Behavioral Studies of the Hypothalamus. New York: Marcel Dekker, Inc.
  • Morgane, J. P., and Panksepp, J. (Eds.). (1980). Handbook of the Hypothalamus: Vol. 2 : Physiology of the Hypothalamus. New York: Marcel Dekker, Inc.
  • Morgane, J. P., and Panksepp, J. (Eds.). (1979). Handbook of the Hypothalamus: Vol. 1 : Anatomy of the Hypothalamus. New York: Marcel Dekker, Inc.

See also[edit]




  • Britt, Robert Roy (2005-04-01). "It's no joke: Even animals 'laugh'". LiveScience. NBC News.
  • Davis, Kenneth L.; Montag, Christian (2018). "A Tribute to Jaak Panksepp (1943–2017)". Personality Neuroscience. 1: e9. doi:10.1017/pen.2018.5. PMC 7219686. PMID 32435729.
  • de Waal, Frans (2019). Mama's Last Hug: Animal Emotions and What They Tell Us about Ourselves (e-book ed.). W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 978-0393357837.
  • Grandin, Temple; Johnson, Catherine (2005). Animals in Translation. New York, New York: Scribner. p. 207. ISBN 978-0-7432-4769-6.
  • Langer, Emily (April 22, 2017). "Jaak Panksepp, Rat Tickler Who Revealed Emotion Lives of Animals, Dies At 73". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 22, 2017.
  • Panksepp, J. (1979). "A neurochemical theory of autism". Trends in Neurosciences. 2: 174–177. doi:10.1016/0166-2236(79)90071-7. S2CID 54373822.
  • Panksepp, J (1992). "A critical role for "affective neuroscience" in resolving what is basic about basic emotions". Psychological Review. 99 (3): 554–60. doi:10.1037/0033-295X.99.3.554. PMID 1502276. S2CID 5551253.
  • Panksepp, Jaak (1998). Affective neuroscience : the foundations of human and animal emotions. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195096738. OCLC 38580282.
  • Panksepp, Jaak; Burgdorf, Jeff (October 2000). "50k-Hz chirping (laughter?) in response to conditioned and unconditioned tickle-induced reward in rats: effects of social housing and genetic variables". Behavioural Brain Research. 115 (1): 25–38. doi:10.1016/s0166-4328(00)00238-2. PMID 10996405. S2CID 29323849.
  • Panksepp, Jaak; Biven, Lucy (2012-09-17). The Archaeology of Mind: Neuroevolutionary Origins of Human Emotions (Norton Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology). W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 978-0-393-70731-1.
  • Shackleton-Jones, Nick (2019-05-03). How people learn : designing effective training to improve employee performance. London, United Kingdom. ISBN 9780749484712. OCLC 1098213554.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  • Stock, David (1999). "Jaak Panksepp". Archived from the original on 2008-06-29. Retrieved 2008-07-23.
  • Walker, Brendan M (2017-10-13). "Jaak Panksepp: Pioneer of Affective Neuroscience". Neuropsychopharmacology. 42 (12): 2470. doi:10.1038/npp.2017.168. ISSN 0893-133X. PMC 5645743. PMID 29026256.

Weintraub, Pamela (2012-05-31). "Discover Interview: Jaak Panksepp Pinned Down Humanity's 7 Primal Emotions". Discover.

External links[edit]