Thursday, March 1, 2012

Beutel & Huber - Can Neuroimaging Contribute to Understanding Analytic Change?

Conclusion: "If we do not limit psychoanalysis to the domain of latent or manifest meaning, but consider it a general model of mind-more specifically, a model of mental disorders and psychotherapeutic treatment-then there are unique opportunities to study psychodynamic hypotheses and change processes (Kandel, 1998, 1999). The functioning of structures strongly affected by adverse experiences early in development (e.g., the limbic system) has become accessible to neuroimaging, opening new avenues for the study of psychoanalytic hypotheses and models. Some basic psychoanalytic tenets have been substantiated by recent neuroscience findings (e.g., the developmental impact of early experiences, unconscious processing). On the other hand, we cannot bypass neurobiological findings on biological vulnerability factors for mental disorders that may increase the vulnerability to adverse experiences in childhood or later life (Hariri et al., 2002). We are also alerted to potential biological changes resulting from adverse experiences (e.g., memory functioning in PTSD). As exemplified by the recent surge in mentalizing and related constructs, studying the neurobiology of psychoanalytic concepts may help in the formulation and testing of the psychodynamic concepts of psychic function. Given the growing discontent with atheoretical, descriptive diagnoses (e.g., major depression), neurobiological findings may help to refine diagnoses according to more functional categories, having implications for the current discussion on "disease-specific treatments." Functional characteristics of subgroups of patients beyond descriptive diagnostic criteria (e.g., levels of emotional processing as proposed by Lane & Schwartz, 1987; Moriguchi et al., 2006) may have an effect on treatment response to certain types of psychotherapy (e.g., psychoanalysis, psychodynamic psychotherapy, or a combination with psychotropic medication). While psychoanalytic concepts have been frequently assimilated and modified by various disciplines (e.g., psychology, psychiatry, neurosciences, humanities), psychoanalysis has moved into an academic outsider position in many fields. Increasingly, psychoanalysts have been advocating a reconnection with academic development (Bornstein, 2005). Among the entry points, neuroscience is but one, albeit an important and promising one." (p. 14)


Manfred Beutel and Michael Huber (2008). Functional Neuroimaging—Can It Contribute to Our Understanding of Processes of Change?. Neuro-Psychoanalysis, Vol. 10, pp. 5-16

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