Jaak Panksepp

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Chapter 12 endnote 54, from How Emotions are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain by Lisa Feldman Barrett.
Some context is:

One prominent neuroscientist, Jaak Panksepp, routinely invites his audiences to see evidence of such circuits in his photos of growling dogs and hissing cats, and in videos of baby birds “crying for their mothers.”

The neuroscientist Jaak Panksepp described seven hypothetical subcortical circuits which he believed cause all mammals to experience joy (which he calls the PLAY system), sadness and grief (the PANIC/LOSS system), anger (the RAGE system), anxiety and fear (the FEAR system), lust (the MATING system), enthusiasm and desire (the SEEKING system), and tenderness and love (the CARE system). He wrote many papers, but his 1998 book remains his most thorough treatment of these ideas.[1]

In my view, Panksepp routinely invited audiences and scientists alike to engage in the mental inference fallacy. His hypotheses have not been supported beyond a reasonable level of doubt.[2] For example, Panksepp believed strongly in the value of electrical stimulation studies for revealing evidence of these circuits, but such studies in humans fail to support his hypotheses, as do studies in non-human animals.[3][4] As Elliot S. Valenstein, the noted authority on brain stimulation, writes:

“The impression exists that if electrodes are placed in a specific part of the brain, a particular behavior can inevitably be evoked. Those who have participated in this research know that this is definitely not the case. In a large percentage of cases, animals do not display any specific behavior in response to stimulation, even though great care may have been exerted to position the brain electrodes with as much precision as possible. Even in rats, where the behavior is more stereotyped than in monkeys and man, brain stimulation produces very variable results.”[5]


Notes on the Notes

  1. Panksepp, Jaak. 1998. Affective Neuroscience: The Foundations of Human and Animal Emotions. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  2. Barrett, Lisa Feldman, Kristen A. Lindquist, Eliza Bliss-Moreau, Seth Duncan, Maria Gendron, Jennifer Mize, and Lauren Brennan. 2007.  "Of mice and men:  Natural kinds of emotion in the mammalian brain?"  Perspectives on Psychological Science 2 (3): 297-312.
  3. Guillory, Sean A., and Krzysztof A. Bujarski. 2014. "Exploring emotions using invasive methods: review of 60 years of human intracranial electrophysiology." Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience 9 (12): 1880–1889.
  4. Valenstein, Elliot S. 1973. Brain Control: A Critical Examination of Brain Stimulation and Psychosurgery. New York: John Wiley & Sons.
  5. Valenstein, Elliot S. 1973. Brain Control: A Critical Examination of Brain Stimulation and Psychosurgery. New York: John Wiley & Sons, p. 88.