What happened when you dropped a rat in one of those boxes you built?He fell on the lever, causing the electrode to stimulate his medial forebrain bundle, a reward center.Everyone who worked there had free access to the patient files, which were thorough in relating the life history of individuals. That was a rather precise and arcane interest for a clinical-psychologist-in-training during the 1960s. A new faculty member at UMass, Jay Trowill, was interested in this exciting new technique: inserting electrodes in rat brains to create pleasure or excitement.After you inserted the electrode, you gave the rat the chance to turn it on or off itself by pushing a lever.You were describing a rat’s experiences in terms usually associated with human experiences. I brought up the psychological issues, and my professor said, Panksepp, I’ve seen guys like you before, and they’re not around anymore.Psychology was not on the table for animal research people. I said, well, I guess I’m not supposed to think here. You’ve got a certain view and you’d better say the mantra because that’s how they’re training you, and believe me, young scholars were brainwashed by the hordes.So I started thinking in those terms: This was mother nature’s way of allowing animals to explore the world.It was an exploratory system; it was about generating expectancies, seeking rewards.
Those kinds of reward experiments had already been going on for years before you got to them. I observed that whenever the animal pushed the lever and got the motivating jolt, it explored its world energetically.
Most of them were ready for the brainwashing like sheep going to slaughter. I learned to bite my tongue until they couldn’t hurt me any more.
I bit my tongue many times, but not hard enough usually. Since we could turn on the emotions with electrical stimulation, for my dissertation I decided to study rats for the anger and rage system already documented in cats.
I realized this predatory attack came from the seeking system.
But whenever the aggression was agitated, resembling human anger, rats would press levers to escape the artificially aroused rage feelings.