The science of emotions: Jaak Panksepp at TEDxRainier
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Translator: Queenie Lee
Reviewer: Peter van de Ven What would art be like without emotions? It would be empty. What would our lives
be like without emotions? They would be empty of values. So a famous classical poet said, “We hate and we love;
can one tell me why?” – Catullus. Science does not answer why questions;
science answers how questions. But the why question would
be answered as follows. We have feelings because they tell us what supports our survival
and what detracts from our survival. And I’ve been in this field now
for half a century, and it’s been a fairly lonely field because when I was a student
in electrical engineering, I started getting bored, and I worked in the back ward
of a psychiatric hospital and saw human tragedies,
their emotional tragedies. No one knew what emotions were,
how we get these feelings, so I decided to shift to neuroscience – first clinical psychology,
then neuroscience, that is the only path
to understanding how we feel. This seems to be an impenetrable mystery, but it is potentially penetrable
with neuroscience, especially if we take the emotions
of animals seriously. And a friend sent me these pictures. A little fawn was injured, and the dog took
a special interest in the fawn. Now is the dog thinking – (Laughter) [You smell good?] Or interesting? We cannot penetrate
the cognitive mind of animals even though they are very skilled
in living as we saw earlier this morning. So second picture. Is the dog saying, “I like you”? [I want to eat you?] (Laughter) or even “I love you”? We cannot penetrate
those kinds of thoughts, but we can penetrate
feelings scientifically, but only with neuroscience. And if we understand
the emotions of other animals, I think we will begin
to understand our own emotions. An artist drew this for me
about a year ago, and even chickens have emotions, so we mapped out
sadness systems in chickens, and they turn out
to be the same as in guinea pigs, and it looks like they’re very similar
to those in human brains – that’s quite a shocker. Now the animal mind
is of great interest to us right now, and I suspect that if we
really focus on their feelings, we will finally begin
to understand our own. So our approach has required neuroscience, and we can actually turn on emotions by stimulating
specific areas of the brain. We’ve known this for quite a while, but I was among the first to ask: when we turn on emotion,
does the animal feel good or bad? The animal can give us that answer because it can turn on
this stimulation if given the chance, or you can turn it off, and that is our measure of feelings. So we’re very similar
at the bottom of our minds, and we’re very very different
at the top of our minds. We are the cognitive creatures,
they are the emotional creatures, but they, obviously, must have thoughts
about their lives and the world. So this is a powerful emotion, we get angry and we get scared because of very similar
systems in our brain. And it turns out that wherever you produce this anger
response in animals, they turned it off;
they don’t like that feeling. So there is something
like anger in the animal brain, and if we understand those circuits, we might have new treatments
for irritability disorder, someone who is continually getting angry, and you say, “Take a pill,” well, we have no pill. But we do have knowledge
about seven basic emotional systems. We call them Primary Emotions, we capitalize them because this requires
a specialized terminology for science; otherwise, we have confusing conversations
because of so many words. So what feeling does the SEEKING system, others still call it the reward system, the feeling is not pleasure,
the feeling is enthusiasm, this is diminished in depression. And I’ll show you
one clinical trial we’re running where we’re facilitating enthusiasm
directly through deep brain stimulation. That’s the feeling (Laughter) in the vernacular, I’m using everyday terms here, of course. There are many sources
of anxiety in the world, but we only have one powerful fear system. And what shall we call
the feeling of LUST? Well – (Laughter) I thought of “passion,”
but that is too broad a term. Now CARE is tender and loving, it’s hard to describe
these pre-verbal powers of the mind. The PANIC system generates
loneliness and sadness, and like I’ve told you,
in chickens we measure separation calls. So PLAY brings you great joy. If you have too much psychological pain,
namely the PANIC system, can cause panic attacks also. This is the gateway to depression:
too much psychological pain. If it’s way beyond bounds, people begin to think
about killing themselves. So we have developed one antidepressant by focusing on the molecular biology
of happiness and joy, and it is currently in human testing. Yes, that is the way tender,
loving feelings feel in the mind, it has a certain dynamic. It comes across in the body
the way the mother caresses a child, and a child that doesn’t have that will have psychological problems
for the rest of his or her life. So if we understand
these emotional systems, some of them will be rewarding,
some are punishing, but they’re never neutral, and that is the evidence
that they have emotional feelings. And we can predict that if we stimulate
the RAGE system in humans, they will be very angry, and it has been shown, just accidentally
during surgical procedures. So let’s focus on this PANIC system
that we started to study 45 years ago. When you separate a young one
from the mother, they begin to cry because the mother
is the absolute source of security, and we started measuring this crying and trying to figure
out a neuro anatomy of it and the neurochemistries, and that has led to new treatments
for depression as well as for suicide. If you take a little bird, and they’re born
and they’re walking around and they’re crying, crying, crying
looking for their mother, as soon as they find the mother’s wings,
they settle down and they’re comfortable, and we can simulate this by simply holding
the little ones in our hands, they immediately quiet down,
they feel comfortable, their beak goes down,
and they fall asleep. This is because we’re activating chemicals that counteract
psychological pain, and the most powerful chemistry
for this turns out to be brain opioids – that’s a shocker. It turns out that our love
and our attachment are partially addictive phenomena; they ride upon our internal opioids. They provide us with a sense of security
that everything is right in the world. So there we are, that is the reason we become
addicted to these molecules, and it’s a tragedy of our country
that we put people in jail as opposed to putting them
in treatment facilities to explain what’s happening
in their brains. I think it would be wonderful if our government
had an open conversation about the sources
of addiction in our brain. Opioids mediate motherly love, the attachment bond
between mother and child, the attachment bond
between loving adults. And then we found that the molecule
that releases milk from the breast also is very powerful in the brain
in reducing the panic response, the separation distress response, and lo and behold, the molecule
that manufactured milk in the breast is equally effective
in reducing separation distress. So the physiology of motherhood
is the physiology of love, and we mapped this system with deep brain stimulation
in guinea pigs first and then chickens, and the anatomy was the same, the neurochemistries were the same. And you see that
in the guinea pig picture, a deep sub cortical system where you can activate
the separation cries, and even if you take an adult guinea pig
that no longer cries, if you put an electrode in there, they will cry like a little baby
as long as you provide the stimulation. So where does it go? It kind of develops inhibition
from higher brain areas. Testosterone is something
that counteracts crying, that’s why there’s a large difference
in male and female emotions. Antonio Damasio imaged
emotional feelings for the first time and found a very similar trajectory, and then Jon Kar Zubieta,
the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, found that human depression and sadness were low opioids
in these same brain areas – remarkable! We are brothers and sisters under the skin
with all the other animals, which provides us
with a special responsibility for how we treat them
in this world of ours, the wonderful pictures
we saw art share with you. So we have generated three new concepts. The first one is to use safe opioids,
not only to treat depression, and buprenorphine is a safe opioid
because you can’t kill yourself with it. Respiratory depression
does not get so extreme because it begins to block
its own action at higher doses, and this could be used for depression
for the last 30 years, but we don’t have a culture
that permits this. And we’re testing this
as an anti-suicide agent in Israel, so we’re using the Beck suicide
inventory in people that are thinking
about taking their lives. During the first week
in these four individuals, all four showed benefits
from both placebo and buprenorphine. Now placebos release opioids in the brain, but by the second week
the placebo was no longer effective but buprenorphine still was. This led us to test 60 people,
double-blind, placebo-controlled, and that trial will be
finished by Christmas. And it will work, I am confident. The second concept has been to use deep brain stimulation
to restore enthusiasm for life, and this cannot be easily done in America. I did convince colleagues in Europe who are doing deep brain stimulation
for Parkinson’s disease to move their electrode slightly
into the SEEKING system, because we know from animal work, if you over-stimulate
the separation PANIC system, it decreases the enthusiasm for life
as this attempts to summarize. And if you could elevate
the seeking mood directly, the enthusiasm mood,
it should have antidepressant effects, and lo and behold, they published this paper
about the middle of July: six of seven depressed people that had not gotten
any benefits from anything, including electroconvulsive shock, showed dramatic elevations
in the desire to live and enthusiasm to do things in the world, they were basically normalized
by facilitating the SEEKING system. And finally, we have
been using PLAY as a model for identifying new molecules
for antidepressants. What would be better
than some molecular pathway to facilitate social joy? The only thing better is to live
in the human family, happily, with art, culture, music,
all of the fine things in life. Of course, human relationships
are the best antidepressants, but we have joy systems in the brain, and we can figure out the molecules, and we have done that
with my Northwestern colleagues, and we have developed
a new antidepressant that came from the analysis of cortical changes
in gene expression patterns and checking out the candidates
as possible antidepressants. And the first couple were antidepressants, but they also had medical dangers, but we found one that didn’t have
any of these problems. By analyzing rats playing,
purely positively, I’ve gotten a famous name
of the rat tickler – (Laughter) (Video) Jaak Panksepp: We have listened
to animals playing – this is from 1998 – what appeared to be
the sounds of laughter, and we studied these for a couple of years without quite understanding
that this might be laughter. And then one day we decided
to tickle some animals, and we realized
that we had to look at the sounds at a very different register
than we can hear, so we obtained these transducers
that are called bat detectors, that can bring very high frequencies
down to our auditory range, and when we did this
and we listened in, we could tickle animals and generate a lot of vocal activity that appeared to be laughter. These animals would
begin to enjoy our company, and they would start
to play with our hands, and wherever we will put our hands
they would follow it. And when we tested these animals to ask whether they were enjoying
this kind of activity, the unambiguous answer was yes. (Laughter) (Applause) (On stage) JP: I might share that the day before
that was filmed by the BBC, our first publication in that area, they told me I had no more
than a year to live, no matter what. So, glad to be here with you. (Cheers) (Applause) If we finally take the emotions
of the other animals seriously, we will finally understand how we have these feelings
of joy and sorrow, anger and sadness. Essentially, this molecule
is called GLYX-13, it’s a very long story that I don’t have time
to share with you here, but it is already in phase two
FDA approved human testing. Single injection produced
antidepressant effects immediately, and those effects
from the one treatment lasted a week. No psychiatric medicine has yet
been developed by human knowledge; so far everything has been discovered
by serendipity and chance. Science has only refined the molecules. This may be the first psychiatric medicine
to come from human knowledge by taking animal feeling seriously, and this has no poisonous properties
as far as we can tell; it’s also not addictive. So finally, this is the conclusion
of a 50-year-old journey. I do hope that people
take a very different attitude to animals than has been common, in research and a variety
of other human activities. We are brothers
and sisters under the skin, and we better recognize that. And once we understand them,
we will finally understand ourselves. Thank you. (Applause)

10 thoughts on “The science of emotions: Jaak Panksepp at TEDxRainier

  1. Jordan Peterson brought me here thanks to the in-depth interview conducted by DoctorOz.

    And I'm really glad I decided to take a look.

  2. Took him a long journey in scientific research to discover what bhuddism has been saying for thousands of years.

  3. interresting talk my question is if part of the brain is injured another sense takes over .what happins to emotions?

  4. I can't understand it. That peope don't understand that animals can feel a huge varaity of feelings is beyond me.

  5. But suicide is one very effective anti depreesant. It 100% stops the pain.

  6. Is he marketing pharma drugs for various emotions, depression is the epidemic these days?
    1. There is no pill to chill
    2. We are FDA testing pill that can trigger chemicals in brain that can lift up your emotions. Jeezzzz!!!

  7. What an inspirational man. You are a wonderful person and you deserve the best for you and your family.
    Lol. I have a long story. I’m a trans woman who has suffered from emotional repression as a young kid. My personal emotional expression was virtually nonexistent as a young child and I was conditioned to think like the manliest manyou will ever meet (also a long story). From a young age I used to constantly distract myself with intellectual problems so I didn’t have to deal with how I felt. And once I figured out as a teen that I was trans (also long story) I am now trying to stop the emotional repression. (In trans women, they often have a biologically female brain). And I am trying to stop emotional suppression and let myself feel girly but god you women have a HEAVY amount of emotion. And now that I am unlearning social conditioning, due to my circumstances I fear my individuality will be crushed by my own mind.

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