Jaak Panksepp, PhD

Baily Endowed Chair of Animal Well-Being Science, Department of VCAPP, College of Veterinary Medicine, Washington State University; Distinguished Research Professor Emeritus of Psychology, Bowling Green State University and Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry at the Medical University of Ohio at Toledo (Ph.D., University of Massachusetts in behavioral neuroscience, 1969; postdoctoral work in feeding and nutrition at the University of Sussex in England and sleep physiology at the Worcester Foundation for Experimental Biology in Shrewsbury, MA).

Our present research is devoted to the analysis of the neuroanatomical and neurochemical mechanisms of emotional behaviors (in the emerging field of affective neuroscience), with a focus on understanding how separation responses, social bonding, social play, fear, anticipatory processes, and drug craving are organized in the brain, especially with reference to psychiatric disorders. The major focus of our current research is trying to understand the instinctual operating systems of the brain which generate emotionality. To that end, we conduct research on the brain mechanisms of fear, anger, separation distress (panic), investigatory processes and anticipatory eagerness, as well as rough-and-tumble play. Past work was in hypothalamic mechanisms of energy balance control supported by a NIMH Research Scientist Development Award. We have authored over 300 scientific articles which deal with basic physiological mechanisms of motivated behavior, am co-editor of the multivolume Handbook of the Hypothalamus and of Emotions and Psychopathology, and the editor of Advances in Biological Psychiatry and Textbook of Biological Psychiatry (Wiley, 2004) and the author of Affective Neuroscience: The Foundations of Human and Animal Emotions (Oxford, 1998). Our ongoing work arises from the general research orientation that a detailed understanding of basic emotional systems at the neural level will highlight the basic sources of human values and the nature and genesis of emotional disorders in humans. We have helped develop the controversial opioid-antagonist therapy for autistic children based on pre-clinical investigations into brain circuits which control social behaviors and we are pursuing new therapies for the treatment of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorders (ADHD) and depression.

Research Interests:

  • Brain processes
  • Emotions and motivation
  • Play
  • Aggression, addiction, social behaviors, brain reward and punishment
  • Autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders


The 2007 Conference