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“Jaak Panksepp was the first and only neuroscientist who focused squarely on the emotional brain. There followed a lengthy and instructive series of emails between Jack and Lucy that ultimately resulted in the publication of this book” Jaak Panksepp and Lucy Biven, authors of the famous book that is often required reading for those studying an Introduction to the Field of Neuroscience, The Archeology of Mind.

Watch our interview on YouTube here

On today’s Episode #270 we will cover

✔  An introduction to Lucy Biven, who co-authored the well-known book, The Archeology of Mind, with Jaak Panksepp.

✔ How Lucy went from being the Head of Psychotherapy at the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service in England, to writing a leading resource in the field of Neuroscience, with Jaak Panksepp.

✔ How neuroscience gave her answers to a court case she was asked to advise, that 19 experts in the field of child development couldn’t solve, without an understanding of how our brain works.

✔ How an understanding of our brain can help us to be better parents, teachers, coaches and managers.

✔ Where Jaak Panksepp’s work filled in the missing gaps for Lucy, opening doors with this new understanding of our brain, and emotions.

✔ 3 often discussed Theories about Emotions and Affect (Feedback Theory, Brainstem Theory and Conceptual Act Theory, or Theory of Constructed Emotion and which one Lucy believes in today.

✔ Lucy makes a case for Panksepp’s Brainstem Theory, as well as Damasio’s work.

✔ Lucy and Andrea discuss the hard question of consciousness and why all traditional attempts to answer this complex question, has failed.

✔ Lucy shares how she uses Panksepp’s Brainstem Theory to help 2 boys knowing when to take the role of a coach, versus a traditional therapist, to help them to overcome mental blocks that were holding them back from living a successful life.

I’m so grateful to have this opportunity today to speak with Lucy Biven, who co-authored The Archeology of Mind, with the one and only, Jaak Panksepp. Those who study the field of neuroscience will know his name, and if you haven’t heard of him, I hope this episode sheds some light on his work, combined with Lucy’s as pioneer researchers in the field of Affective Neuroscience.

Welcome back to The Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Podcast where we bridge the gap between theory and practice, with strategies, tools and ideas we can all use immediately, applied to the most current brain research to heighten productivity in our schools, sports environments and modern workplaces. I’m Andrea Samadi and launched this podcast almost 4 years ago, to share how important an understanding of our brain is for our everyday life and results. This season (Season 9) we will be focused on Neuroscience: Going Back to the Basics for the next few months, as we welcome some phenomenal pioneers in the field of Neuroscience, paving a pathway for all of us to navigate our lives with more understanding with our brain in mind. My goal with this next season (that will run until the end of June) is that going back to the basics will help us to strengthen our understanding of the brain, and our mind, to our results, and provide us with a springboard to propel us forward in 2023, with this solid backbone of science. With some new and exciting responsibilities on my end, we will be doing one episode a week, going back to the basics each week, that I know will be helpful for all of us.

For today’s guest and EPISODE #270, we will be speaking with someone who many of you who study in the field of neuroscience will recognize. There are those who I would call “rockstar” researchers, whose work has revolutionized the field. If you take a neuroscience course, or like I did, a Neuroscience Certification Program, you are a clinician, a psychotherapist, you will have come across her first book as required reading. Metapsychology Online Review thinks this book should be “essential reading not only for mind professionals, but for teachers, parents, personal and physical trainers and coaches.”

So when I had an email from this next guest, one of the rockstar authors we come across and highlight in our notebooks, letting me know she has recently published a new book, and that her first book she co-authored with Jaak Panksepp, I almost fell off my chair in my office. She could have been Mick Jagger emailing me, as that would be the equivalent in this field of neuroscience research.

Her first book The Archaeology of Mind[i] that she co-authored with Jaak Panksepp “describes the new scientific discipline called affective neuroscience, which seeks to illuminate how our most powerful emotional feelings—the primal emotional affects—arise from ancient neural networks situated in brain regions below the neo-cortical thinking cap.”

“An exhaustive work, covering a neglected and often misunderstood field . . . . Nowhere else will you really find due diligence done on the non-conscious biases of humans and animals . . . . Essential reading, not only to us as mind professionals, but to teachers, parents, personal and physical trainers and coaches. Emotions are still everything, and vital to understanding why we are what we are, and why we do and have done, everything in the past and now. An amazing buy.”
― Metapsychology Online Reviews

“Panksepp’s perspective on the continuity of animal and human minds has not received the attention it deserves. Here are the collected facts and the reasoning behind that compelling view. An indispensable volume.”
― Antonio Damasio, author, Self Comes to Mind; David Dornsife Professor of Neuroscience and Director, Brain and Creativity Institute, University of Southern California

“This book has the capacity to integrate affective neuroscience into the consciousness of not only therapists, but also those interested in understanding depth motivation that sustains or pathologizes our every action and thought. It is a truly pioneering effort. Its deep truths about the origins of mind and feeling, and the implications for altering how we see ourselves over evolutionary time, connected to our fellow social mammals and birds, also has implications for how we treat our fellow travelers on this planet.”
― Stuart Brown, MD, Founder and President, The National Institute for Play

Our next guest, Lucy Biven, who co-authored The Archeology of Mind with Jaak Panksepp,  is the former Head of the Department of Psychotherapy at the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service, part of the National Health Service in Leicestershire, England.

She became interested in neuroscience about 20 years ago when she was appointed by the Michigan Supreme Court to devise and implement a protocol for the transfer of custody of a 2½ year old girl from the home of a couple whom the child regarded as her parents, to the home of her biological parents. Like most of her colleagues, Lucy worried about the little girl’s psychological development, yet the child progressed well and today is an emotionally healthy young woman. Where did it all go right?

She looked towards neuroscience for the answers she was looking for and found that, along with meeting Jaak Panksepp who coined the term “affective neuroscience” (a field that studies the neural mechanisms of emotions and how consciousness emerges from strong emotional stimuli).

My goal with this next interview is learn directly from Lucy Biven, how an understanding of our emotions and our brain can help us to be better teachers in the classroom, coaches in the field of sports, or improve our effectiveness in the modern workplace.  Her most recent book A Short-Cut to Understanding Affective Neuroscience was released last summer, and I look forward to learning what this rockstar from the field of psychology and neuroscience can teach us with her work, research and experience.

Welcome Lucy, thank you very much for reaching out to me when you did, it was perfect timing for the direction we are going with the podcast, and going back to the basics to start our year. Welcome.

INTRO Q: To start off with, I must ask, what type of reaction do you typically get from people when you reach out to them, like you did to me. Have most people read The Archeology of Mind? The reason I ask this, is that Antonio Damasio mentioned that “Panksepp’s perspective on the continuity of animal and human minds has not received the attention it deserves” and I had heard that before, so I wonder were you surprised when I knew exactly who you were, with the massive amounts of respect that go along with those who spearhead a field?

Q1: I always like to know what brought people to where they are now, and you explain what brought you to this field in the Introduction of your book A Short-Cut to Understanding Affective Neuroscience[ii]. Can you give a snapshot of your career path (so I don’t think I was crazy that you were in England)? What did your work entail as Head of the Department of Psychotherapy at the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (in England) and why were you appointed that case by the Michigan Supreme Court?

Q1B: The book opens with an incredible example of how neuroscience helped to inform the outcomes of those cases involving children and their caregivers that dated back to 1993. Can you explain how neuroscience explained the outcomes that 19 experts in child development couldn’t see without understanding how the brain works? I’m asking from the point of view not of a researcher who has a sound understanding of how our brain works, but for of those of us who have a thirst to understand this information, that we were never taught.

Q2: The introduction of your book is interesting as neuroscience proved something that 19 experts in child development couldn’t see, even from the point of view of a parent. I always wondered if I had made a mistake when I moved from Canada to the US (only AFTER I had children) but it was with the difference we see with maternity leave in the US where we have about 12 weeks compared to a full year in Canada. I always wondered if I was doing something wrong when I dropped my daughter off at daycare and drove off to work.

I was shocked when I learned that “The hippocampus creates enduring personal memories, but it does not begin to function until a child is about four years old (Newcombe et al. 2000; Gleitman et al. 2007). Babies and young children can retain short-term memories, but the neural pathways that encode these memories dissolve after a few weeks or months and the children forget” (Fivush and Hamond 1990).

So, for all those parents out there who feel guilty dropping their kids off at daycare, or leaving them for a few hours with a caregiver, this bit of research could really have helped me back then to not stress so much about that, right?

How else can you see an understanding of our brain, helping us beyond your Supreme Court Case, or for young parents raising their children? Do you have any other neuroscience tips that surprised you?

Q3: What was it about Jaak Panksepp’s work that filled in the missing gaps for you, and for lay people like me and others listening who want to understand the important workings of the brain (for improved results in our schools, sports environments or modern workplaces?)

Q4: The first 3 chapters discusses different schools of thought about emotion and effect. Can we talk about each one and give an example of how something like a gunshot would be experienced with each theory?

  1. Feedback Theory-affects emerge from cognitive parts of the cortex or cortex creates all forms of consciousness (Kawkabani, 2018) We hear a gunshot, and freeze but why according to FBT are we not afraid?
  2. Brainstem Theory-maintains that all mammalian brains contain genetically programmed emotional systems). I’ve seen Panksepp’s 7 Emotional Systems written out in many places but didn’t realize there was a reason behind the ALL CAPS of each system. What did he want to show with the all caps?

Panksepp’s 7 core emotions:

  • ALL mammalian brains have these 7 emotions?
  • Why do you think these 7 emotions have been overlooked by psychologists and neuroscientists if they appear in the upper brainstem, indicating they evolved a long time ago?
  • With brainstem theory, we hear a gunshot, what happens? We feel fear that originates from the brainstem?

3. Conceptual Act Theory (CAT)-claims that emotional systems do not exist and that emotions do not emanate from any brain region. Affects depend on concepts we construct largely on the basis of social experience. (Lisa Feldman Barrett-Theory of Constructed Emotion-explains the experience and perception of emotion). Her research shows emotions are invented using our memory and imagination (Waldman).

  • With a gunshot, how would you explain your reaction if emotions don’t exist in the brain?
  • Did my brain create a fearful affect based on what I watched on TV, my memory and imagination?

Q5: In chapter 5 and 6 you dive deeper into brainstem theory by looking at 2 different hypothesis—Jaak Pankseep and Antonio Damasio, explaining how affects might be created.  Both are similar, involving the brainstem, but they explain different mechanisms for how this happens.

  • What is Damasio’s view involving homeostasis/consciousness?
  • What is Panksepp’s major contribution to affective neuroscience?

Q6: All the research in the first 7 chapters show how the brain creates conscious affective feelings. In chapter 7, you evaluate Damasio and Panksepp’s Hypothesis.

You mention that both Damasio and Panksepp maintain that all consciousness includes a conscious unified sense of self (Ramachandran, 2009) who we’ve come across on this podcast as he inspired the work of Dr. Baland Jalal EPISODE #211.[iii] Ramachandran sites that people with male bodies feel like men, and people with female bodies feel like women.

What does neuroscience research say about our sense of self and our consciousness and what was the point with Ramachandran’s research?

Q7: Chapter 8 we have the hard question of consciousness.

On EPISODE #251, I looked at “Exploring Consciousness” and learned that “consciousness is the most astonishing act our big, complex, interconnected brains pull off and scientists are only just beginning to understand it.”[xiv] (National Geographic, The Brain). I learned that “Some scholars reckon the puzzle of consciousness is something the human mind is incapable of solving” (National Geographic) but that Daniel Dennett, Philospher and Cognitive Scientist from Tufts University (MA) says that this line of thinking is “culpably wrong. It isn’t impossible at all. It’s just that we have to buckle down and do it.”[iv]

  • Why do all traditional attempts to answer the hard questions of consciousness fail?
  • Which brain structures and functions correlate with consciousness?
  • How does the physical brain create nonphysical conscious experiences (like seeing colors, tasting flavors, feeling joy and sorrow, anticipating the future, and remembering the past?
  • What makes us happy, lonely, caring or curious? (no one knows how this happens Greenfield 2000).

Q8: In chapter 10, you show how neuroscience helped you to treat 2 boys using the SEEKING system. How did you help each boy differently by knowing when to act like a coach, or like a traditional therapist and identifying the 7 emotional sytems that needed help?

How could others use this system to help students, or athletes, who’ve gone off track somehow, or even managers and supervisors in the corporate world who might be having a challenge with their employees?

NOTE: Lucy wanted to be sure we included a distinction between emotion and affect in the show notes.

Neuroscientists see emotion as purely physical reactions that occur inside the body (influx of stress or calming chemicals) and behavior (smiling, grimacing, approaching, running away). Affects, on the other hand, are private conscious experiences that cannot be directly observed – you can only deduce affects from behavior and verbal reports.

Lucy, I want to thank you very much for first of all sending me that note before the holidays. For those of us who spend a lot of time learning, someone who can understand these difficult concepts, and explain them in a way that we can all use them, really are rockstars in my eyes. Like Dr. Daniel Siegel[v], who wrote the foreword to The Archeology of Mind and suggested that scientists or researchers would be interested in “the abundance of academic references” but for clinicians, educators or general readers, he suggests to read the pages of that book like a fascinating nonfictional story, and let the words sink in over time.

Thank you for joining the rockstar researchers who have come on our podcast, like Dr. Daniel Siegel and those who have helped us to embrace a world where neuroscience can provide us with answers to move us forward, if we can take the time to stop, think, and understand the research that you’ve gathered, and then see how we can implement your last tip, to impact change in our worlds, backed by science. Thank you for all you have shared today.

If people want to reach you, what is the best way?

Email Lucy at

If people want to purchase your books, what is the best way?

A Short-Cut to Understanding Affective Neuroscience by Lucy Biven Published July 6, 2022


Palaces of Memory by George Johnson

The Emotional Brain by Joseph LeDoux Published September 22, 201We

Who’s in Charge by Michael Gazzaniga Published November 15, 2011


[i] The Archeology of Mind: Neuroevolutionary Origins of Human Emotion by Jaak Panksepp and Lucy Biven Published September 17, 2012

[ii] A Short-Cut to Understanding Affective Neuroscience by Lucy Biven Published July 6, 2022

[iii]Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Podcast EPISODE #211 with Dr. Baland Jalal on “Sleep Paralysis”

[iv] What is Consciousness Published on YouTube Sept. 10, 2015 TIME STAMP 1:31/12:42

[v] Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Podcast EPISODE #28 with Dr. Daniel J Siegel on “Mindsight: The Basis for Social and Emotional Intelligence”