Brain Emotional Circuits and Psychopathologies

  • Jaak Panksepp


In this paper, I will advocate the position that psychology must begin to study emotions more earnestly at a neurological level in order to make major progress in the field. Although my style will be contentious, my hope is not to stir more sterile controversy in this troubled area, but to evoke greater enthusiasm for the psychobiological approach to understanding emotionality. I am convinced the psychobiological approach has a better chance of generating a deep understanding of the basic nature and causes of human emotionality than any other experimental approach presently available (although it has no chance of capturing the vast variety of individual emotional experiences in the butterfly net of its empirical measurements). I believe the neurological approach will provide the ultimate foundation for understanding the nature of the affectivelemotional imbalances which constitute the major psychiatric disorders, even though it may add little to our understanding the correlated non-affective content of each individuals specific emotional experiences. It is long past time to try, once again, to blend the neurological and psychological approaches to understanding emotions into a coherent whole, as was attempted by Gellhorn and Loofbourrow ((1963). Another major example of such an attempt in the past was one developed by Magda Arnold (1960). Her perspective was both creative and broad in scope, but it was not especially well restrained by empirical data or sculpted in such a way that it could generate clear predictions in the brain-research laboratory. At the present time, existing data can sustain a more modest synthesis which can effectively guide cross-species brain research and which has the potential to promote basic understanding of the psychopathologies.


Basic Emotion Major Psychiatric Disorder Animal Brain Emotive System Primary Emotion 
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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jaak Panksepp
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyBowling Green State UniversityBowling GreenUSA

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