Psychoanalysis and the brain - why did Freud abandon neuroscience?

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Abstract

Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, was initially a neuroscientist but abandoned neuroscience completely after he made a last attempt to link both in his writing, "Project of a Scientific Psychology," in 1895. The reasons for his subsequent disregard of the brain remain unclear though. I here argue that one central reason may be that the approach to the brain during his time was simply not appealing to Freud. More specifically, Freud was interested in revealing the psychological predispositions of psychodynamic processes. However, he was not so much focused on the actual psychological functions themselves which though were the prime focus of the neuroscience at his time and also in current Cog-nitive Neuroscience. Instead, he probably would have been more interested in the brain's resting state and its constitution of a spatiotemporal structure. I here assume that the resting state activity constitutes a statistically based virtual structure extending and linking the different discrete points in time and space within the brain. That in turn may serve as template, schemata, or grid for all subsequent neural processing during stimulus-induced activity. As such the resting state' spatiotemporal structure may serve as the neural pre-disposition of what Freud described as "psychological structure." Hence, Freud and also current neuropsychoanalysis may want to focus more on neural predispositions, the necessary non-sufficient conditions, rather than the neural correlates, i.e., sufficient, conditions of psychodynamic processes.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberArticle 71
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Volume3
Issue numberAPR
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes

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Psychoanalysis
Neurosciences
Psychology
Brain
Constitution and Bylaws

Keywords

  • Brain
  • Freud
  • Neuroscience
  • Psychoanalysis
  • Resting state

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

Cite this

Psychoanalysis and the brain - why did Freud abandon neuroscience? / Northoff, Georg.

In: Frontiers in Psychology, Vol. 3, No. APR, Article 71, 2012.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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