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James Olds (May 30, 1922 in Chicago, Illinois - August 21, 1976 in California) was an American psychologist who co-discovered the pleasure center of the brain with Peter Milner while he was a postdoctoral fellow at McGill University in 1954. He is considered to be one of the founders of modern neuroscience[1][2][3] and received numerous distinctions ranging from election to the United States National Academy of Sciences to the Newcomb Cleveland Prize of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.


Early life and education[edit]

Olds was born in Chicago, Illinois. His father Leland Olds later became Chairman of the Federal Power Commission under President Franklin D. Roosevelt. His grandfather George D. Olds was the ninth President of Amherst College. Olds grew up in Nyack, New York. Olds attended college at a number of schools including St. John's College, Annapolis, and the University of Wisconsin, but received his undergraduate B.A. from Amherst College in 1947. His undergraduate years were interrupted by military service in the U.S. Army during the Second World War as part of the Persian Gulf Command. Following the war, Olds went on to get his Ph.D. at Harvard University in the Department of Social Relations under Professor Talcott Parsons. His thesis was focused on motivation and led to his subsequent interest in the biological basis of motivation.[4] Olds married fellow neuroscientist, Marianne E. Olds in 1946. They had two children, Jacqueline Olds and James Leland Olds.


Following his Ph.D., Olds went on to do postdoctoral work at McGill University under Donald Olding Hebb, where he made his most important discovery with Peter Milner.[5] Subsequently Olds moved to UCLA, where he took his first academic appointment at the Brain Research Institute.[6] In 1957 Olds was appointed associate professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Michigan.[7] He left Michigan in 1969 to become the Bing Professor of Behavioral Biology at the California Institute of Technology[8] where he continued his research and led a large lab until his untimely death in a swimming accident in August 1976. His last work was aimed at understanding the mechanisms of learning and memory.


  • 1954 Olds, J., and P. Milner. Positive reinforcement produced by electrical stimulation of septal area and other regions of rat brain. J. Comp. Physiol. Psychol. 47:419-27.
  • 1955 Olds, J. "Reward" from brain stimulation in the rat. Science 122:878.
  • 1956 Olds, J. Runway and maze behavior controlled by basomedial forebrain stimulation in the rat. J. Comp. Physiol. Psychol. 49:507-12.
  • 1956 Olds, J., K. F. Killiam, and P. Bach-Y-Rita. Self-stimulation of the brain used as a screening method for tranquilizing drugs. Science 124:265-66.
  • 1956 Olds, J. Pleasure center in the brain. Sci. Am. 195: 105-16.
  • 1958 Olds, J. Self-stimulation of the brain. Science 127:315-24.
  • 1958 Olds, J., and M. E. Olds. Positive reinforcement produced by stimulating hypothalamus with iproniazid and other compounds. Science 127:1175-76.
  • 1965 Operant conditioning of single unit responses. Proc. 23rd Congr. Physiological Sciences. Excerpta Med. Int. Congr. Ser. no. 87, pp. 372–80.
  • 1967 The limbic system and behavioural reinforcement. Prog. Brain Res. 27 144-64.
  • The central nervous system and the reinforcement of behaviour. Am. Psychol. 24 (1969) 114-32.
  • 1969 Olds, J., and Hirano, T.: Conditioned responses of hippocampal and other neurons. Electroencephalogr. clin. Neurophysiol. 26 159-66.
  • 1969 Olds, J., and Best, P. J.: Single unit patterns during anticipatory behaviour. Electroencephalogr. clin. Neurophysiol. 26 144-58.
  • 1972 Olds, J., Disterhoft, J. F., Segal, M., Kornblith, C. L., and Hirsh, R.: Learning centres of rat brain mapped by measuring latencies of conditioned unit responses. J. Neurophysiol. 35 202-19.
  • Drives and reinforcements Raven Books ISBN 0-89004-087-7 (1977)


External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Olds — Please support Wikipedia.
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120 news items


Mon, 08 Sep 2014 09:41:44 -0700

Interdisciplinary researcher James Olds has joined the National Science Foundation as assistant director of the Directorate for Biological Sciences, NSF announced Wednesday. The academic leader, who starts in his new role in October 2014, is a ...
Boing Boing
Mon, 03 Nov 2014 03:13:38 -0800

In the 1940s, two researchers named James Olds and Peter Milner accidentally uncovered some peculiar properties of a special area of the brain. The researchers implanted electrodes in the brains of lab mice that enabled the mice to give themselves tiny ...

E&T magazine

E&T magazine
Tue, 11 Nov 2014 08:46:09 -0800

Newly appointed head of the US National Science Foundation's biological sciences directorate and leading neuroscientist Professor James Olds thinks the work on NMC is interesting, but he's not convinced our understanding of the brain is sophisticated ...
Sun, 23 Nov 2014 04:11:15 -0800

Schließlich hatten James Olds und Peter Milner vom California Institute of Technology bereits 1954 einen ähnlichen Versuch an Laborratten unternommen. Sie entdeckten, dass sich über Elektroden im Hirn der Tiere das Belohnungssystem stimulieren lässt.

Apotheken Umschau

Apotheken Umschau
Mon, 17 Nov 2014 00:03:45 -0800

Als der US-Psychologe James Olds 1954 Laborratten Elektroden in das Gehirn pflanzte, wollte er eigentlich etwas über das Lernverhalten herausfinden. Doch er entdeckte etwas viel Spannenderes: das Belohnungszentrum. Der Forscher war offenbar auf ...
The Border Mail
Thu, 27 Jun 2013 14:04:15 -0700

But just how good is James Olds? We put the Steamers fullback to the test this week at Murrayfield, on a dry afternoon and with a barrel of footballs on the half-way line. The challenge was simple — from 10 kicks, how many could he slot between the ...
Westdeutsche Zeitung
Fri, 14 Nov 2014 03:45:02 -0800

Zwei Forscher namens James Olds und Peter Milner des California Institute of Technology wollten neue Erkenntnisse über Lernprozesse gewinnen und untersuchten zu diesem Zweck das Verhalten von Laborratten. Den Nagern wurde eine Elektrode ins ...


Tue, 18 Mar 2014 10:46:22 -0700

James Olds was convicted of all seven counts - second-degree sexual abuse, exploitation of a minor, lascivious acts with a child, indecent contact with a child, lascivious conduct with a minor, false imprisonment and indecent exposure. He sexually ...

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