The Origin of Emotions with Jaak Panksepp (BSP 91)


Dr. Jaak Panksepp

In his new book, The Archaeology of Mind: Neuroevolutionary Origins of Human EmotionsJaak Panksepp set out to make his life's work more accessible to a general audience.  To be honest, reading this book requires a significant commitment, but I think he does a wonderful job of updating his classic textbook, Affective Neuroscience.  Anyone who is interested in this field will definitely want this book as a reference.

The other strength of Archeology of Mind is its evolutionary approach.  The primary emotional processes that Panksepp has spent his career studying have their origins in the ancient parts of the brain that are shared by all mammals.  This contradicts longstanding assumptions in neuroscience, but it has important implications for both humans and other animals.

In Episode 91 of the Brain Science Podcast, Dr. Panksepp and I talked about some of the new information contained in Archaeology of Mind, with a particular focus on FEAR, which, contrary to what many researchers claim, does NOT begin in the amygdala, but begins much lower.  We do talk briefly about the experimental evidence, but this was covered in more detail during Dr. Panksepp's previous appearance on the Brain Science Podcast in BSP 65.

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NMX - I'll Be There

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Disgust with Rachel Herz (BSP 86)


Disgust is an universal emotion, but unlike emotions like fear and anger, disgust must be learned.  This is the main conclusion of Dr. Rachel Herz's latest book, That's Disgusting: Unraveling the Mysteries of Repulsion.  In a recent interview (BSP 86), Dr. Herz told me why she spent the last several years studying this rather unusual subject.  We also discussed what the study of disgust can tell us about how our brains process emotion.

This is Dr. Herz's second visit to the Brain Science Podcast.  Back in BSP 34 we talked about her first book, The Scent of Desire: Discovering Our Enigmatic Sense of Smell.

How to get this episode:

  • Buy mp3 for $1.
  • Buy Transcript for $1.
  • Premium Subscribers now have unlimited access to all old episodes and transcripts.
  • New episodes of the Brain Science Podcast are always FREE.  All episodes posted after January 1, 2013, are free.  See the individual show notes for links the audio files.


Affective Neuroscience with Jaak Panksepp (BSP 65)

Episode 65 of the Brain Science Podcast is an interview with Jaak Panksepp, PhD, author of Affective Neuroscience: The Foundations of Human and Animal Emotions.   Dr. Panksepp has done pioneering work on the neural origins of emotions.   In this interview, we discuss how his work challenges some of the common assumptions about emotions and some of the important implications of his discoveries.  New listeners may want to go back and listen to Episode 11 for an introduction to the neuroscience of emotion.

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Emotion (BSP 11)


Emotion: The Science of Sentiment, by Dylan Evans, is the featured book for this episode of the Brain Science Podcast.  Thanks to Kate from the UK for suggesting this book.

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Show Notes

This episode is a short introduction to the idea that our emotions are an essential part of our intelligence.

  • We discuss the basic emotions, based on the work of anthropologist Paul Eckman.
  • We learn about culturally-learned emotions, such as "being a wild pig," which is observed among the Gurumba people of New Guinea.
  • Paul Griffiths introduced the idea of "higher cognitive emotions."
  • Emotions seem to exist on a continuum from the highly innate basic emotions to the culturally specific emotions.
  • The work of Joseph Ledoux and Antonio Damasio reveal that our emotions are an important element of normal intelligence.
  • We consider how fear actually follows two pathways in the brain.
  • We consider the role of the limbic system including the amygdala.
  • We consider the relationship between emotions and mood.
  • We consider how mood affects memory and decision making.
    • This includes Robert Zajonc's discovery of the "mere exposure" effect.
      • We briefly consider the question of whether computers could ever display emotions.

    Further Reading:

    The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness (2000)by Antonio Damasio.