#Neuropsychoanalysis; a convergence of neuroscience and psychoanalysis, fMRI studies show internal conflict mental states
By: Lisa Lukianoff, Psy.D.
Discoveries in science promote advancements in fields of study. Case-in-point the psychological sciences field is inextricably linked with discoveries in neuroscience.
Neuropsychoanalysis, the clinical practice, and study of neuroscience and psychoanalysis, is an emerging field propelling research in the neuropsychoanalytic study of psychological states from a brain science perspective.
To study the neural patterns of psychodynamic conflict, scientists Kehyayan, Best, Schmeing, Axmacher, & Kessler (2013) used fMRI scans to measure internal states. The scans revealed psychodynamic conflict in the anterior cingulate cortex and in the emotion-processing regions of the brain.
The concept of “neuropsychoanalysis” joins together psychoanalysis and neuroscience to allow for psychoanalytically informed neuroscience. “…if a theme comprised in the subject’s conflict is touched in a real-life situation, reactions on the behavioral, cognitive, and physiological level should be expected, that call for the regulation of cognitions, impulses and, most importantly, emotions”, (2013).
Scientists Panksepp & Solms (2012) state that the study and idea of neuropsychoanalysis, which began in the 1990’s, arose from a clinical need to reconcile psychoanalytic and neuroscientific perspectives on emerging discoveries. The overarching goal was to better understand the neurobiological origins of emotions and psychiatric dysfunction. The focus is on brain functions, “Neuropsychoanalysis is especially interested in brain functions that govern instinctual life, in particular, those that are foundational for understanding subjectivity, agency, and intentionality”, (p. 1, 2012).
Ideally, the synthesis of these fields will produce a greater understanding of the neurological brain affective networks involved in psychological states and an understanding of higher cognitive functions.
“Researchers in this field assimilate the best conceptual tools and clinical observations from the pre-neuroscientific era that sought to understand the complexities of human mentation in their own right, and encourage their integrated use with all the new and old neuroscience techniques needed for a fuller understanding of mind than academic psychology and neuroscience has yet achieved”, (Panksepp & Solms, p. 3, 2012).
Based on these findings psychodynamic conflicts viewed by corresponding fMRI studies provide an investigative technique to analyze conflict processing with neuroimaging.
Kehyayan, A., Best, K., Schmeing, J. B., Axmacher, N., & Kessler, H. (2013). Neural activity during free association to conflict–related sentences. Frontiers in human neuroscience. Volume 7(705). Doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00705.
Panksepp, J. & Solms, M. (2012). What is neuropsychoanalysis? Clinically relevant studies of the minded brain. Trends in cognitive sciences. Volume 16(1): pp. 6-8. Doi:10.1016/j.tics.2011.11.005.
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