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Affective Neuroscience


The rat race is on ... same thing every morning. We get out of bed, we eat breakfast, get ready for work, go to work, come back home, eat dinner, watch TV, go to bed and dream, only to start again the next morning. Why do we do that? Why do we walk to the fridge for food, why do we go on vacation, why do we solve puzzles, why do we do whatever it is we do throughout the day? 

Have you ever wondered how we can be fearful and angry at the same time? 

Why do loneliness and grief hurt so much, but the pain eases when someone shows that they care? 

And how come rough-and-tumble play makes kids so darn happy that they forget all about pain when they fall, forget about drinking when they get thirsty or rest when they get tired?

These are some of the questions Affective Neuroscience answers for us. The term Affective Neuroscience was coined by Estonian researcher Jaak Panksepp, who tried to find better ways to help patients with mental illnesses. His research took him deep into the animal brain, where he identified 7 primary emotional systems: SEEKING, RAGE, FEAR, LUST, CARE, PANIC/GRIEF and PLAY. And he found these same emotional systems in every species that was tested, and therefore concluded that the majority of mammals, incl. us humans, have these affective brain circuits in common. The emotional systems are intrinsic and fully functional from birth. 

Dr. Panksepp's studies are the main component in Affective Dog Behavior, getting to the bottom of how the 7 primary emotional systems affect and drive our dogs' behaviors. This is a rather new approach to handling dogs, as we acknowledge that mental processing always starts at the bottom, then works its way up into the higher regions of the brain. And thus, Affective Dog Behavior follows a BOTTOM-UP APPROACH, rather than the traditional top-down approach; Affective Dog Behavior works with the emotional systems that have been built into the brain from birth to help dogs feel a bit safer in their world.

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JAAK PANKSEPP is also known as the Rat Tickler. During his research, he discovered that rats not only enjoy to be tickled, but do so with a high-pitched chirp that is equivalent to human laughter.

At birth, the limbic system, where the 7 primary emotional systems are, is fully functional. However, the cortex (the thinking brain) is a blank slate.

The brain is the only organ that bears evidence of how it was affected by evolution, with the oldest parts being well hidden in the bottom center of the brain.

Learning is a subcortical process that occurs when raw affect meets the environment. The slowest part of the brain to show effects of learning is the neocortex (the thinking brain).

JAAK PANKSEPP found that the secret to mental health wasn't in studying negative emotions but by finding the brain circuits that make us "happy".

JAAK PANKSEPP - Affective Neuroscience of the emotional BrainMind: evolutionary perspectives

An INTERVIEW  with Jaak Panksepp about the importance of PLAY

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