Nov. 12: Scientist considers animal emotions, consciousness

Panksepp-80PULLMAN, Wash. – Neuroscientist Jaak Panksepp will discuss animal emotions and human consciousness at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 12, in Todd Hall 130 at Washington State University. The free, public program is hosted by the WSU common reading program.

“This talk will focus on the battles that are still being engaged on whether other animals do have emotional feelings or not,” Panksepp said. “These battles are delaying our scientific understanding of the nature of human consciousness, which may also have great benefits for future understanding of human psychiatric disorders and their treatment.”

He is credited with creating the term “affective neuroscience” for the field that studies brain mechanisms of behavior in mammals or the neuro-evolutionary foundation of human and animal emotion. His scientific research indicates that rats laugh (or the high-pitched rodent equivalent) when tickled. His work has impacted understanding of autism and is contributing to therapies for treatment of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorders (ADHD) and depression.

Panksepp since 2006 has been the Baily Endowed Professor of Animal Well-Being Science at WSU. He works in the Department of Integrative Physiology and Neuroscience in the College of Veterinary Medicine.

Born in Tartu, Estonia, he has authored and/or edited 11 books and more than 330 journal articles and reviews. His Ph.D. is from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. He did post-doctoral work in nutrition and body energy balance at the University of Sussex and in sleep physiology at the Worcester Foundation for Experimental Biology in Massachusetts. Before coming to WSU, he was a faculty member in the Department of Psychology at Bowling Green State University, Ohio.

His presentation ties to topics in this year’s common reading book, “Being Wrong,” by Kathryn Schulz. This is the seventh book in as many years to be used by WSU freshmen and their professors to foster academic dialogue in classes and beyond. Schulz will be on campus Feb. 24 to meet with students. A year-long supplemental program, Common Reading Tuesdays allows expert faculty and guests to share in-depth knowledge with students.

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Karen Weathermon, WSU Common Reading Program, 509-335-5488,

Beverly Makhani, director of communications, WSU Office of Undergraduate Education, 509-335-6679,