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Zellner, M. (2017). Remembering Jaak Panksepp. Neuropsychoanalysis, 19(2):123-125.

(2017). Neuropsychoanalysis, 19(2):123-125


Remembering Jaak Panksepp

Maggie Zellner

In the pages of Neuropsychoanalysis, we often address deep, complicated questions about the nature of affect. A related theme is the centrality of attachment and relationships in the human psyche. In this issue, these questions are manifested quite directly: we acknowledge the loss of our dear friend and colleague Jaak Panksepp, who died in April of this year.

For all who heard his many keynotes at conferences all around the world, or immersed themselves in his abundant writings, the loss is truly profound. His significant experimental findings illuminated the distinct primary emotion systems. He persistently advocated for a perspective on the brain which prioritized an active subject with needs, rather than a behaviorist automaton responding to cues. In this, and many other ways, his ideas resonated deeply with people who are steeped in the psychoanalytic models of the mind.

Those of us who knew him – from long-time collaborators, to laypeople asking him questions after a lecture, to students who benefited from his generous and enthusiastic support – were each privileged to have contact with one of the giants in the progress of neuroscience. Those of us who knew him also appreciated how approachable and funny he was, and how modest he was, given his stature. (It may also have been that, as a community, we were some of the people who most recognized his stature – it may take the rest of the scientific world a while longer to recognize his true import.) Because of his intellectual contributions, and because of his sweet manner, we mourn his loss.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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