Neuropsychoanalysis: what it is and how it studies the human mind

If the general idea of ​​psychoanalysis is that it has nothing to do with neuroscience, the truth is that the subjective aspect of Freud’s current and the scientific study of the brain allow us to have a fairly complete view. of the human being.

Neuropsychoanalysis is a psychological current that has combined psychoanalysis and neuroscience have a scientific and deeper understanding of the human mind, which for a long time was not considered possible.

We will then try to explain in more depth what are the foundations of this current, its current lines of research and its historical origins.

    What is neuropsychoanalysis?

    Neuropsychoanalysis is a variation of the psychoanalytic stream which integrates neuroscience with psychoanalytic postulates. This current is relatively new, having its conceptual foundations at the end of the twentieth century, although since the time of Sigmund Freud can be seen the relationship between scientific study of the brain and psychological theorization of the mind.

    This stream of thought is considered a fairly balanced and fair proposition, as it is not extremely subjective in terms of the idea of ​​consciousness and mind, nor does it abuse science as some neurosciences do. By combining psychoanalysis and neuroscience, he obtains an approach to the mind and its neurobiological foundations considered by some to be a fairly reliable description of human reality.

    the story

    neuropsychoanalysis cannot be understood without paying attention to the figure of Sigmund Freud and his early psychoanalytic theories. A perhaps little-known aspect of the Austrian psychoanalyst is that he was a neuroscientist and neurologist for the first two decades of his professional life. Maybe not in a way we understand today, but of course his interest in the brain and the way it relates to consciousness brings him closer to the premises of neurology than you might think.

    The origins of neuropsychoanalysis go back to one of the covers of Sigmund Freud, Project for a Scientific Psychology of 1895. In this text Freud developed his theories on the neurobiological function of memory, claiming that it must be found in the brain., But without knowing exactly what the area would be. Freud hypothesized that psychodynamic theories and neurobiology would eventually gain strength over time, evolving into a single field of study combining the biological study of the brain and the psychoanalyst of the mind.

    The famous psychoanalyst tried to carry out a scientific program of mapping the human mind (Metapsychology), which for him were closely related to the structure and functions of the human brain. Despite his efforts, Freud himself insisted that the brain sciences of his time did not have the conceptual or technical tools necessary to be able to perform such a mind mapping. As a result, Freud adopted a purely psychological method.

    In the second half of the 20th century advances in neuroscience have led to the abandonment of the subjective study of the human mind. Electroencephalography was invented in the 1930s, which allowed the brain to be seen like never before and to live. Later, it was possible to check how the brain was functioning by performing different types of activities, which areas were activated, and how injuries disrupted neural systems.

    In 1999, after years of advancement in neuroimaging techniques such as computed tomography, electroencephalography and structural magnetic resonance imaging, neuropsychoanalysis was born. Thus was born the union of two fields of study of the human mind and brain, considering that one was incomplete without the other. Among its founders we have personalities from psychology such as: Antonio Damasio, Eric Kandel, Joseph LeDoux, Helen Mayberg, Jaak Panksepp, Oliver Sacks and Mark Solms.

      Theoretical foundations: double monism

      The first problem we can talk about when discussing neuropsychoanalysis is the problem of the relationship between the mind and the brain, considered to be the big problem of neuroscience. Basically, cit is possible that the brain can regulate the mind and consciousness in general terms.

      In fact, one of the questions raised by neuropsychoanalysis is whether the mind shrinks too deeply in the brain. Is the mind convincingly explained or is it simply correlated with the functioning of the mind and brain? If so, what would be the causal basis for this correlation? Is the spirit really in the brain? Where would it be located? Is the mind an emergent property of the brain?

      The fundamental conceptualization of neuropsychoanalysis is that of dual aspect monism. Freud points out that the true nature of the mind is unconscious, an idea that can be linked to Kant’s philosophy. For Kant, the subjective being, what is perceived when we look inside us is not the mind itself. The mind itself cannot be perceived directly. We can only know the mind through our phenomenal consciousness, which provides an indirect and incomplete representation of the mental apparatus and its functioning.

      The real ontological nature of the mind is something epistemologically unknowable. Its nature can be deduced from our own conscious observations, and thus expand the limits of consciousness, which is the aim of the psychoanalytic method. However, it will never be possible to directly know the mind. It is necessary to resort to abstractions derived from inferences and to construct figurative modelsSomething that Freudian metapsychology tried to explain with its notions of economic, dynamic and topographical points of view.

      Other branches of psychology, regardless of their degree of scientificity, also have epistemological limits in attempting to describe the inner workings of the mind. The multiple models that attempt to explain how memory works, dual path reading, or the models of divergent visual systems involved are one example.

      The relationship between neuroscience and psychoanalysis is that, as we have mentioned, of connecting the brain as a biological entity with psychological functions and human behavior. Neuropsychoanalysis aims to make overcome the classic neuroscience exclusion of the concept of the mind, seen as something excessively subjective.

      The mind is an indisputably subjective entity, as it is composed of sensations, thoughts, consciousness and feelings. This view can be seen as too contrary to the scientific spirit motivated by the natural sciences, especially neurobiology and other neurosciences.

      However, the already classic idea that the brain and the mind are linked, since the time of Descartes, who claimed that they were two different but connected entities, is very well established. He is the inventor of the dualism of mind, of the dichotomy of mind and body. The body is one object, one thing, while the spirit, also called spirit or soul in its time, is another, but somehow they relate. Brain injury implies dysfunction in this mind.

      Main lines of research

      At present, neuropsychoanalysis has opened up several avenues of investigation, particularly focused on the more scientific study of the idea of ​​consciousness and the structures that compose it.

      Research is also underway on what dreams are, what they might mean, how conspiracies occur, and other expressions of thought which, although modern psychology has dismissed the fact that they might have meaning , the truth is, it’s hard to accept the idea that they appear totally randomly. Among the ideas that have been raised for its emergence is the loss of executive control in the mesocortical and mesolimbic systems.

      The Freudian concept of libido has been linked to the dopaminergic systemAnd, no doubt, the ideas of instinct and the pursuit of pleasure proposed by primitive psychoanalysis have their neurobiological counterpart. This search for pleasure is linked to the instinct for survival and reproduction, which is a fundamental aspect for the sustainability of the human species.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Mark Solms and Oliver Turnbull (2013) What is neuropsychoanalysis? University psychiatry. 9 (2), 153-165.
      • Damasio A. (2011). The ego comes to mind: to build the conscious brain. London: Heinemann
      • Freud S. (1915). The unconscious. Standard Edition, 14
      • Freud S. (1950 [1895]). Scientific psychology project. Standard Edition, 1:17

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