The case for neuropsychoanalysis: Why a dialogue with neuroscience is necessary but not sufficient for psychoanalysis

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Abstract

Recent advances in the cognitive, affective and social neurosciences have enabled these fields to study aspects of the mind that are central to psychoanalysis. These developments raise a number of possibilities for psychoanalysis. Can it engage the neurosciences in a productive and mutually enriching dialogue without compromising its own integrity and unique perspective? While many analysts welcome interdisciplinary exchanges with the neurosciences, termed neuropsychoanalysis, some have voiced concerns about their potentially deleterious effects on psychoanalytic theory and practice. In this paper we outline the development and aims of neuropsychoanalysis, and consider its reception in psychoanalysis and in the neurosciences. We then discuss some of the concerns raised within psychoanalysis, with particular emphasis on the epistemological foundations of neuropsychoanalysis. While this paper does not attempt to fully address the clinical applications of neuropsychoanalysis, we offer and discuss a brief case illustration in order to demonstrate that neuroscientific research findings can be used to enrich our models of the mind in ways that, in turn, may influence how analysts work with their patients. We will conclude that neuropsychoanalysis is grounded in the history of psychoanalysis, that it is part of the psychoanalytic worldview, and that it is necessary, albeit not sufficient, for the future viability of psychoanalysis.

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