Trailblazing research conducted by Jaak Panksepp could one day bring relief to millions of people around the globe who suffer from psychological disorders such as depression, schizophrenia, and autism.

Dr. Panksepp, who joined the College of Veterinary Medicine in 2006, has spent most of his career researching affective neuroscience, the study of the basic processes that create and control moods, feelings, and attitudes—in both people and animals. His goal is to offer a scientific strategy for understanding emotional feelings in the brain by accurately studying the behavior of animals. Understanding the neurochemistry behind emotion may lead to new treatment options for people battling psychological illnesses.

Some 30 years ago, Dr. Panksepp began mapping the neural pathways for grief by identifying brain areas and chemistries that control crying when young guinea pigs or birds are left alone for a short time . Only recently, through human brain imaging, has it been confirmed that those same brain regions and chemistries also control human sadness.

Dr. Panksepp also mapped the neural pathways for joy and happiness by identifying those mechanisms that controlled the laughter-type sounds made by rats engaged in social play. (He was the first to demonstrate that rats make laughing sounds when they are tickled!)


Featuring: Jaak Panksepp, Ph.D.

In more than 300 articles and several books, including the seminal Affective Neuroscience: The Foundations of Human and Animal Emotions (Oxford, 1998), Dr. Panksepp has created an exciting new field of research. By making the biological connection between animal and human emotional systems, he has helped make animal research an important component of psychiatric science.

Dr. Panksepp has collaborated on numerous projects with colleagues at other universities in the U.S. and abroad. He is a Distinguished Research Professor Emeritus of Psychology at Bowling Green State University, as well as head of Affective Neuroscience Research at the Falk Center for Molecular Therapeutics at Northwestern University. Since arriving at WSU he has turned his attention to depression and understanding the underpinnings of positive social temperament. He is the co-director of research for the Hope for Depression Foundation in New York City.