LSA professor to explain why the brain wants what it wants


The Economist magazine calls LSA’s Kent Berridge “the neuroscientist who has changed the way we look at desire.” That’s because Berridge understands how the brain’s reward mechanisms work — and why human beings have such insatiable wants.

In his upcoming Distinguished University Professor lecture, “Finding Delight, Desire, and Dread in the Brain,” Berridge will take listeners on a journey through the brain’s reward system, detailing processes such as “liking” and “wanting,” processes that are crucial for normal life but can go awry in the presence of addiction and other disorders.

Kent Berridge

The talk will take place at 4 p.m. Feb. 1 in Rackham Amphitheatre. The lecture and the reception that follows are free and open to the public.

A Distinguished University Professorship is the highest professorial honor bestowed on U-M faculty. Berridge was named the James Olds Distinguished University Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience in 2016. He also is a professor of psychology.

In his talk, Berridge will examine how the brain’s “wanting” systems grow in addiction, become suppressed with mood disorders, and even take on a darker side in some forms of paranoia.

His lecture will follow in the footsteps of the late James Olds and other pioneering University of Michigan researchers who studied the brain’s mechanisms for reward and motivation.

A faculty member in LSA’s Department of Psychology since 1985, Berridge specializes in biopsychology, addiction, affective neuroscience, reward, and motivation. His research aims to answer such basic questions as: What causes addiction? How is pleasure generated by the brain? How is disgust generated? How does wanting something differ from liking it? What does fear share with desire?

Berridge and his lab team at U-M are studying the psychology and neurobiology of pleasure and desire to further understand the neural mechanisms of emotion, motivation, learning and reward. Their research has applications in the areas of human drug addiction, eating and mood disorders, consumption choices, and the conscious and unconscious emotions involved in everyday life.

Berridge named his professorship in honor of the pioneering American psychologist James Olds, who is considered one of the founders of neuroscience.

In 1954, as a postdoctoral fellow at McGill University, Olds co-discovered the pleasure center of the brain. Three years later Olds joined the U-M Department of Psychology faculty where he remained until 1969. Olds died in 1976; his last work was aimed at understanding the mechanisms of learning and memory.

Berridge holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of California, Davis, a Master of Arts degree and Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania, and he was a postdoctoral fellow at Dalhousie University in Canada.

In addition to the Distinguished University Professorship, he has been honored as a fellow of the Guggenheim Foundation, the Fulbright Program, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Psychological Association, and the Association for Psychological Science.

He is also a co-winner of the American Psychological Association’s Distinguished Scientific Contribution award. Berridge co-edited the 2009 book “Pleasures of the Brain,” part of Oxford University Press’s Series in Affective Science.



  1. Sally Guthrie
    on January 22, 2018 at 12:05 pm

    Will this be recorded? I would really like to hear this but I have moved to California so I cannot attend this talk.

  2. Prashant Rajaram
    on January 22, 2018 at 3:38 pm

    It would be great if the talk could be recorded and a link can be shared. I am travelling out of town that day and will unfortunately have to miss this talk.

  3. Kathleen Singer
    on January 22, 2018 at 8:10 pm

    Please tell me this lecture will be recorded and I will be able to view it online

  4. Kathleen Singer
    on January 22, 2018 at 8:10 pm

    Please tell me this lecture will be recorded and I will be able to view it online

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