Jaak Panksepp
1943 - 2017
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(News story) BOWLING GREEN - Jaak Panksepp, whose scientific research at Bowling Green State University into the brain, behavior, and emotion won global attention, none so much as the finding that lab rats, when tickled, laugh, died Tuesday in his Bowling Green home. He was 73.

He learned in November he had squamous cell carcinoma, his wife, Anesa Miller, said. A book he co-wrote on the neuroscience of personality is to be published soon, she said. He continued his research through February.

"He was still going to campus, even when he had to walk on crutches because he had a lot of pain," his wife said.

Mr. Panksepp was a BGSU distinguished research professor emeritus. At his death, he held an endowed chair in animal well-being science at Washington State University, where he was a professor in the college of veterinary medicine.

Not long before he retired from BGSU, a postdoctoral student suggested recording laboratory rats, the better to hear their sounds at play. Special equipment to detect high-pitched sound was set up.

"And, lo and behold," Mr. Panksepp told The Blade in 1998, "it sounded like a playground!"

He later thought of prompting rat vocal response by tickling the rodents.

"As soon as we did it, it was - Eureka!" he said then, adding that he was fully aware that others might question the worth of such research. In a later stage of the work, he said that his search for the neural circuitry and genes for laughter were a study of "the biology of joy."

Some scientific journals balked at publishing the research, "because he called it a corollary to human laughter," his wife said. People Magazine and News of the Weird wrote about it.

"He was a very passionate person and had a great curiosity and was passionate to explore his curiosity," his wife said. "He was very excited about trying to make a contribution to mental health and human understanding."

Mr. Panksepp arrived at BGSU in 1972, and early on received attention for his research on how the brain influences the desire for food, drink, and sleep. He later was recognized for work on autism and attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder.

"In my research, I try to understand how the brain organizes emotional and motivational processes," Mr. Panksepp said in 1988 as he was named BGSU's second distinguished research professor. The Northwest Ohio Society for Autistic Children named him "professional of the year" in December, 1991.

He was born June 5, 1943, in Tartu, Estonia, to Salme and Rudolph Panksepp. The family fled the next year to escape the Soviet Army, his wife said.

"That loss colored his early life and the anger from people of his parents' generation made such an impression on him that he became curious about emotions and how these powerful forces drive human beings to do the most mind-boggling things," his wife said. "He said many times just because something we might call human nature is based in biology, that doesn't mean that we cannot change it, manage it, direct it in positive ways."

After several years as displaced persons, they found a sponsor and were able to move to the United States. He grew up in Delaware and, by his mid-teens, Lakewood, N.J., his wife said.

He received a bachelor's degree from the University of Pittsburgh and a master's degree and doctorate from the University of Massachusetts.

For his life's work, he received the Order of the White Star from the president of Estonia.

His daughter, Tiina Panksepp, died in 1991.

Surviving are his wife, Anesa Miller; son, Jules Panksepp; stepdaughters Antonia Pogacar and Ruth Pogacar-Kouril, and a step-granddaughter.

Memorial services will be at 4 p.m. Friday in Prout Chapel on the BGSU campus. Arrangements are by the Deck-Hanneman Funeral Home, Bowling Green.

The family suggests tributes to the J.P. Scott Center for Neuroscience, Mind & Behavior in care of the BGSU Foundation.

This is a news story by Blade staff writer Mark Zaborney. Contact him at: mzaborney@theblade.com or 419-724-6182.
Published in The Blade on Apr. 20, 2017.
MEMORIAL EVENTS
APR
21
Memorial service
04:00 PM
Prout Chapel
Memories & Condolences
Not sure what to say?
28 entries
April 13, 2020
There is nothing new to say except that we are missing his inspiring , creative and fearless approach to the world.
Rainer Krause Saarbrücken
Rainer Krause
Coworker
April 12, 2019
We were very close in thinking and working. He was our guest in Heidelberg and Saarbrücken and we published some of his outstandig ideas in German. I am still working just now on a book chapter in which i am heavily relying on him. Besides that he was a very noble brave man with a lot of humor . Even the rats were laughing. We miss him.
Rainer Krause
Coworker
November 30, 2017
Second Message

Just that I miss Getting Jaak's emails.

Jaak Viirland.
November 25, 2017
This is a big loss to science , to affective neuroscience and psychology -- Jaak Panksepp with live through his work though. I corresponded with him as a student a few times and he was always very generous in sharing his views and wisdom.
Jag Sungkur
Acquaintance
October 3, 2017
Dear Family, Friends & Colleagues,
A year and a half ago, knowing my great interest in the science of emotions in humans and other animals, a friend recommended Jaak Panksepp's 'Archaeology of Mind'. It turned out to be one of those rare, few, life-changing books and has had the most tremendous impact on me, both objectively and subjectively, intellectually and personally. In learning of Jaak's death I feel personally bereaved as though I have lost a wise, funny, treasured friend.

I thought so much of this book that I precised it and put that on my blog ('Lois'Art & Wildlife' - Page 'Science thoughts 2013-')

With much sorrow for your loss,
Lois Pryce, Bristol, England
Lois Pryce
July 1, 2017
I just an hour ago discovered Jaak Panksepp had died this April 18. His pioneering work on Affective Neuroscience is a great gift to Humanity, especially for me as it relates to LOSS expressed as Panic and Grief.

He was a Free Friend and we communicated by email. He was the only public person to endorse my LOSS LINKS project which has a Facebook page. Also, he was empathetic to my LOSS challenges, helping me to understand what psychotropics might be of help in better coping with my panic and anxiety due to the deaths of most valued others.

I felt of all the scientists I have read, Jaak was the most "Human" in his CARE for others. I believe he learned as I did the true Lesson of Loss, which is CARE. His writing on the accidental death of his daughter at a young age is a tribute to the combination of science and art he practiced so well.

I have learned much about myself and the Human Condition through his work and I think many will too if they read his papers and books. Here is a link to a lovely video on Youtube commemorating him and his work:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IumCFUvzIYc

To Anesa, his wife, and his children, I offer the end of a long poem I wrote upon the death of my Other Half, Katharine, in 1996, to help use your LOSS to link you to life and others:

My love, I find you inside of everyone I ask out.
You gave me your death as your final gift and I will
Continue to open it with the best of my life.

May Jaak and his great gift continue to live in us who value him.

Jack in Auckland, New Zealand
Jack Carney
Friend
July 1, 2017
I just an hour ago discovered Jaak Panksepp had died this April 18. His pioneering work on Affective Neuroscience is a great gift to Humanity, especially for me as it relates to LOSS expressed as Panic and Grief.

He was a Free Friend and we communicated by email. He was the only public person to endorse my LOSS LINKS project which has a Facebook page. Also, he was empathetic to my LOSS challenges, helping me to understand what psychotropics might be of help in better coping with my panic and anxiety due to the deaths of most valued others.

I felt of all the scientists I have read, Jaak was the most "Human" in his CARE for others. I believe he learned as I did the true Lesson of Loss, which is CARE. His writing on the accidental death of his daughter at a young age is a tribute to the combination of science and art he practiced so well.

I have learned much about myself and the Human Condition through his work and I hope you will too if you read his papers and books. Here is a link to a lovely video on Youtube commemorating him and his work:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IumCFUvzIYc

To Anesa, his wife, and his children, I offer the end of a long poem I wrote upon the death of my Other Half, Katharine, in 1996, to help use your LOSS to link you to life and others:

My love, I find you inside of everyone I ask out.
You gave me your death as your final gift and I will
Continue to open it with the best of my life.

May Jaak and his great gift continue to live in us who value him.

Jack in Auckland, New Zealand
Jack Carney
June 6, 2017
I love Jaak Panksepp's vital work. I met him recently when he spoke at Cornell University. I told him I was working on a book about the social mind-brain and Jane Austen. He told me that his wife loves Austen and I asked if she would like to read the book. He said yes, and I took his address, which I've unfortunately misplaced. Despite his renown and importance, Jaak had time to give an unknown author and to ask about my project. I'm so sorry he has passed away. My condolences to the family.
Wendy Jones
May 26, 2017
Jaak Panksepp.
My email friend, no wonder he did not respond to my emails lately.
We were born in the same town in Estonia.
Jaak was born 3 years after me.Bless Him!!!
May 11, 2017
It was my pleasure to meet Jaak during his visits to Portsmouth. He combined a seriously "hard science" approach to the physiology of emotion with an understanding based on warmth and humanity. He was unfailingly modest, kind and constructive. I was so sorry to learn of his passing.
paul morris
May 7, 2017
Jaak was absolutely the most inspiring professor ever. My undergraduate experiences with him in 1980-81 have never been matched. His intellect, curiosity, and passion were unmatched. Jaak made the world a better place. My condolences.
Thomas Gerstenberger
May 5, 2017
I am truly sorry to hear of Jaak's passing. He was an innovative researcher and a true gentleman. I'll always remember the wonderful talk he gave at our college several years ago. I admire his gift for creative and lucid synthesis of scientific information and I know that many future generations of neuroscientists will continue to enjoy his papers and his books. My deepest condolences to his wife and family.

Andy Niemiec, Neuroscience Department, Kenyon College
Andrew Niemiec
April 26, 2017
As on of the faculty members od the Graduate College "clinical emotion Resesearch" fundet by the German Science Society I had the chance to invited Jaak to prsent his ideas to us and our students at Heidelberg. Afterwards we translated his work on panic and separation anxiety into German to make it public to the clinical people. Than I had the pleasure to act as a commentarer to his seminal work on emotions as viewed by pychoanalysis and neuroscience in the first volume od neuro- psychoanalysis. All this together was extremly helpfull to get our thoughts and projects clearer. He was able to see gesatlt like configurations below the surface without electrodes. So he was the right man at the border between the unconscious and hard science. In addition he was somebody who likes yoy , so it is no accident that he discoverered the rats loughs. Fanally he was able to "handle" very servere blows of life with a certain decence. So "ich verneige mich vor einem wirklich grossen Menschen" Rainer Krause
Rainer Krause
April 25, 2017
The Member's of the BGSU Retirees Association were saddened to learn of Jaak's passing and extend our deepest sympathy to the family!
April 25, 2017
Dear Anesa, It was such a shock to hear last week of Jaak's death. My heart goes out to you, and I am glad to know that you are in Bowling Green where you will have the support of old and dear friends. Jaak's pathbreaking work on the affective neuroscience of humans -- not only of "rats" --has indelibly changed my approach to my own scholarly pursuits, as I am sure it has many others. I'll always remember my few visits with him and you, and I will consult his books many times. My condolences and warm affection, always.
Ellen Dissanayake
April 24, 2017
Many researchers in the field of affective neuroscience will now feel a bit orphaned from what was a generous researcher. The family gets my feelings and condolences
Antonella Ronco
April 24, 2017
Professor Panksepp's research and synthetic scholarship have made lasting contributions. His perspectives were wide ranging and always engaging. I continue to study his important papers relating neurobiology to dual aspect monism.
Respectfully submitted,

Ralph Lydic, The University of Tennessee
April 24, 2017
It was with great sadness that I learned of Jaak's passing. It is a grave loss, the loss of friend and a great scientist. My deepest condolences. Stefano Puglisi-Allegra
Stefano Puglisi-Allegra
April 23, 2017
As a founding member of the Sleep and Performance Research Center at Washington State University, Jaak was a source of inspiration for all of us in the Center. Always willing to stimulate and guide our scientific thinking, his involvement made our research not only better but also more enjoyable and worthwhile. We will miss him dearly as a colleague and a friend.

From everyone in the Center, our deepest condolences to Anesa and all of Jaak's family, friends and colleagues.
Hans Van Dongen
April 23, 2017
Very sorryto hear this sad news. A good friend from days at Sussex University in England and a brilliant scientist. Our sympathy to Anesca, Jules and family. Fred and Olga (Toates)
April 21, 2017
Dear Anesa and family,

I was so sorry to learn the sad news about Jaak and am sending my deepest sympathies to all of you. May you find comfort during this time of sorrow.
Donna Nelson-Beene
April 21, 2017
BGSU Psychology Faculty
Dr. Panksepp among his fellow BGSU colleagues in the '90's. My sympathy to all who knew and loved him.
Deb Smith
April 20, 2017
I grew up with Jaak in Lakewood, NJ during his public school years and will miss his email correspondence of the past years. The academic world has lost a stellar researcher who tirelessly probed the functioning of the human/animal emotional intellect. My condolences to Anesa and family.
Pete Feldmann
April 20, 2017
I was composing an email to Dr. Panksepp when I discovered his untimely passing. he was such an inspiration to me and so many others who value his compassion and insight into the deepest aspects of life and the brain which binds all mammals emotionally. May this great thinker's soul live forever and the memories of him that his family, friends, and those whom he influenced continue to provide us with insight, courage, and love throughout the struggle of this existence.
John Duncan
Acquaintance
April 20, 2017
Jaak was a big help to us in making contacts for our Fulbright year in, yes, Tartu, Estonia. He was indeed a world traveler and a giant in his research area. He will be missed. Ray Laakaniemi, retired, Journalism BGSU
Ray Laakaniemi
April 20, 2017
So sorry to hear the news of Jaak. I came to know him over 25 years ago, when I befriended his late daughter, Tiina as a friend. It's been a long time since I've seen him, but have many great memories from his home on Sandridge. My condolences to the entire family. He will be reunited with Tiina and his other family members.
Kelsey (Snyder) Kuhlman
April 20, 2017
While I never had the pleasure of meeting Professor Panksepp, I learned from him from afar. His questions and research helped confirm my hopes and gave me assurance that my experiences with other mammals as emotional companions was more than a figment of my imagination. I will be forever grateful for seeing him tickle rats and hearing them laugh and realizing that we all share that wonder of joy and delight! May you know deep peace as you grieve the loss of your beloved. And know that our thoughts and prayers surround you all, family, friends, colleagues, students.
lisa knaggs
April 19, 2017
His legacy will on for generations as clinicians use the knowledge he brought us for those healing from trauma and other disorders with his seminal contributions to the field of affective neuroscience.
Sandra Paulsen
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