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On the Brain and Behaviour, Part IV

Monday Musings for Monday June 24, 2013

Volume III, No. 23/126


NIH Neuroscience Center Building, Rockville, MD

(Editor’s Note: This is part IV of a four part series on Brain and Behaviour. In Part I, June 3, 2013, the general topography and physiology of the brain was discussed. In Part II, Monday June 10, the topic of Epigentics was explored. In Part III, June 17, the emergence of ‘Age of Mind’, marriage of psychoanalysis and neurosciences was examined. Today, Part IV, we conclude the series by offering an example of such marriage in the form of a book review to enhance our understanding of what lies in the future of the union of psychoanalysis and neuroscience.)

 Brain and Behaviour, Part IV


By Assad Meymandi, MD, PhD, DLFAPA*


Edited by Mauro Mancia. 436 pages. $199.00

Springer.  New York, NY

The faithful readers of this space recall that we begun reviewing books about mind, memory, neuroscience and the brain many years ago. The first book reviewed in this series was the book by Harvard clinical and research psychologist, Daniel L. Schecter, Searching for Memory, the Brain, the Mind and the Past. The last book reviewed in this series was the Nobel Laureate psychiatrist Eric Kandel’s book, “The Emergence of a New Science of Mind,” published in the October 2011.

We now offer the review of a fascinating book, “Psychoanalysis and Neuroscience,” edited by the enormously sage of the Italian Academia, neurobiologist and psychoanalyst Mauro Mancia. First a word about the author/editor:

Mauro Mancia is Professor Emeritus of Neurophysiology, University of Milan, Italy and Training Analyst of the Italian Psychoanalytical Society. His interest is in the link between neuroscientific knowledge and psychoanalytic theories of mind and he has written extensively on the subjects of narcissism, dreams, sleep, memory and the unconscious.

Interest in dream goes back to Sumerian recordings going back to some eight thousand years ago.There are abundant references to dreams in Torah, the Bible, the Holy Quor’an and other celestial books, such as Avesta, the book of Zoroaster, written 500 BCE. But it was not until early last century that Freud published his work on understanding and interpretation of dream that a firm connection between dream, memory and “mental” history began to evolve.

Fast forward the clock. Neuroscientific interest in dream started in 1953 with the discovery of Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep by Aserinsky and Klietman, taking psychophysiologic findings of dream into the realm of biology. There are many exciting discoveries in the area of psychoendocrinology of dream and memory coming out of many sources and laboratories both in US and abroad. Here is the title of one of the recent articles: “The Role of the Inter-relation Between Serotonin (5-HT), Muramyl Dipeptide and Interleukin-1 (IL-1) in Sleep regulation, Memory and Brain regulation,” by the editor of this book and his colleagues, published in American Journal of Physiology. 

The book is organized in four parts.

Part I:

Memories and Emotions: consists of eight chapters written by experts in their respective fields.This segment examines one basic message: memories stand out and last longer when they are accompanied and highlighted by emotional experience. The message of this section of the book is the importance of interconnection of memory with emotions. With scientific detail and elaboration, the authors demonstrate the proteins in amygdala and hippocampus responsible for retention of memories are parts of the limbic system that overall is responsible for housing emotions denoting the common neuronic pathway for memory and emotions. In 1940s, while mapping specific components of the limbic system, Paul D McLean invoked the romantic notion that the limbic system is “the anatomy of emotions.”

Part II:

The second part of the book consists of three chapters. It examines the sensorimotor side of “empathy pain,” the role of the anterior cingulate cortex in affective pain, and social cognition and response to embodied stimulation.

Part III:

Also consists of three chapters. It is perhaps the most exciting part of the book. It deals with “The Dream in the dialogue between Psychoanalysis and Neuroscience.” One chapter dissects the neurobiological and psychoendocrinological anatomy of dreams and memory formation. In recalling events of the past as practiced in psychoanalysis, the brain’s physiology and even anatomy and morphology stands to be changed. This part of the book reminded me of another significant book recently published, “Train your Mind, Change your Brain” in which author Sharon Begley, a Wall Street Journal neuroscience reporter, shows how thinking can change the brain functionally and anatomically.

Part IV:

The two chapters of this part discuss fetal behavior. While the word embryology is seldom used, the authors of these two chapters examine in detail the onset of human fetal behaviour, and neurophysiologic impact and influence of nursing on the early organization of the infant mind.

With the knowledge that the basic instrument in the discipline of psychoanalysis is recall of memories, dreams and transference, the 21 authors of this book make a good case why there should be a robust and constant conversation between psychoanalysts and neurophysiologists. It is time for these disciplines to learn about and from each other. The authors invite readers, in most scholarly and convincing manner, that psychoanalysis, a powerful reservoir of volumes of memories, should integrate resources with neurophysiology and enjoy the mutual fertile and rich products. It is the expressed purpose of the book to further elaborate and understand the relationship between memory, dreams and neurobiological changes occurring during the experience and the course of psychoanalysis. This holy partnership is encouraged and the authors, like priests, are willing to bring about this holy matrimony to the world of science.

The downside of the book: It is a rather difficult read, I guess because it is a translated work. I do not know how much psychoanalysis and neurophysiology the translator, Mrs. Judy Baggott, has had. To a linguist, conversant with a variety of Eastern and Romance languages, the slip of the translator shows fairly frequently. Her skirt should be longer!  However, this minor flaw should not dissuaded anyone form tackling this enormously informative and scholarly work.


*The writer is Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina School of Medicine at Chapel Hill, Distinguished Life fellow American Psychiatric Association, and Founding Editor and Editor-in-Chief, Wake County Physician Magazine (1995-2012). He serves as a Visiting Scholar and lecturer on Medicine, the Arts and Humanities at his alma mater the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health.

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