10 Chapters
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CHAPTER ONE: The cultural inheritance of Project for a Scientific Psychology

Sasso, Giampaolo Karnac Books ePub

Freud unquestionably considered The Interpretation of Dreams (1900) to be his most successful theoretical work, the book that, also as a result of its great clarity, laid the foundations for the birth of psychoanalysis and its subsequent development. The work he considered his most unsatisfactory, on the other hand, was Project for a Scientific Psychology (1895), which he interrupted after a laborious frst draft. The style is complicated and rather arcane, and it is diffcult to follow Freud’s line of reasoning, which at times is quite contorted. Indeed, when the manuscript came to light in 1937, Freud was opposed to its publication as he considered it to be an unsuccessful draft of several personal neurophysiologi-cal hypotheses, written at a time of emotional exaltation and totally unreliable from a scientifc point of view. He was, in fact, right for a number of reasons. His concept of the neuron, which had only been discovered by Cajal a few years earlier in 1889, was completely mistaken and this resulted in several unrealistic ideas about brain function, which are discussed later.

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CHAPTER TEN: The unresolved problems of Freudian metapsychology

Sasso, Giampaolo Karnac Books ePub

We started this book by re-exploring the significance of Freud’s Project but what conclusions have we come to? In the light of what we have looked at, I think we can safely say that, given the level of neurophysiological knowledge of the time, there was no way in which Freud could have ideated the P-I dynamic although it was latent in his theoretical model.

Through his understanding of child development, had Freud been able to make explicit reference to this dynamic as its nucleus, he would certainly have modifed his concept of the libido, toning down the sexual connotation and highlighting its relational function. At the time when Freud was working, however, sexuality was conspicuously at the centre of a patient’s disorders and Freud was inevitably led towards drive theory because of this pathogenic function.

His neurophysiological assumptions in the Project were not, however, very far from our own. The original focus of his interest was in understanding how “the subject complex” could emerge, by means of proper access to the memory traces of the ψ neurons, from the necessary control of the “object complex”. It only seems rightthat, having reached the fnal chapter of this book, we should attempt, in due recognition of Freud’s work, to translate into our own neurophysiological language, some of the basis tenets on which he founded his two main topics: the unconscious, preconscious, and conscious and the ego, id, and superego. The P-I dynamic contributes to these two groupings and it would be useful to refect once more on how Freud understood the cerebral dynamic and how this compares with what we know today.

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CHAPTER SIX: Normal and pathogenic development of mother-child interaction

Sasso, Giampaolo Karnac Books ePub

The dynamic concept of the reticulum is very useful in helping to understand drive development and its relationship to relational development, as was seen in the previous chapter. The characteristics of the P-I dynamics are even more interesting, however, as they permit a thorough analysis of Edelman/Tononi’s hypotheses about neuronal selection in cerebral mapping, and suggest other more complete explanations of how maternal interaction can modify the child’s brain. The widely held belief that mother-child relations necessarily produce cerebral changes (Schore, 1994; Hadley, 1989) has a plausible explanation in the effects that maternal patterns can have on the development of the “s-o” pathways of the reticulum, as will now be illustrated.

The most interesting feature of these changes is not however their mere neurophysiological significance, but the kind of theo retical framework they provide for the different psychoanalytical models, from Freud onwards. The P-I dynamics, approached in the right way, shed light not just on the way in which the mother di rectly influences the maturation of certain neural areas, but also on the way in which these developments typically identify different perspectives in psychoanalytic theory.

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CHAPTER TWO: Recent progress in the field of neuroscience

Sasso, Giampaolo Karnac Books ePub

As the brain comprises numerous structures that cooperate closely with one another, a brief description of these structures will be given in order to highlight the types of problems that neurophysiology has had to face in the more than one hundred years since the pioneering work of Freud. Figures 2.1 and 2.2 give an intuitive idea of the brain’s complexity which is the result of its evolutionary history.

The neocortex is the most recent part of this evolutionary development and its size is what distinguishes the development of man from that of other mammals. It is in the neocortex that the two most evolutionarily innovative areas of the brain, specialized in language, were located by Broca and Wernicke.

The extensive cortical cloak hides the extraordinarily numerous underlying subcortical structures. Although these structures, which are much older in evolutionary terms, have names that are far less familiar, they are nevertheless equally important.

What is the function of this complex system? Generally speaking, it fulfls the task outlined by Freud in the Project, i.e. it enables the body to respond adequately to both external and internal information. Exactly how the analysis of all this information is coordinated in the various brain systems is the very core of neurophysiologi-cal research. Certain features enable us to understand fairly rapidly why the brain is organized the way it is. It specializes in analysing the sensorial properties of objects in the environment and the spa-tiotemporal relations by means of which the organism can interact with these objects.

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CHAPTER THREE: The current idea of a child’s mental development

Sasso, Giampaolo Karnac Books ePub

Along time has passed since Freud frst developed his idea of energy discharge and announced his drive model, many of the theoretical aspects of which are still important today. We now have a far more detailed knowledge of the structure of the brain and also a far better understanding of the psychic complexity of a child, including the existence of a child’s wide range of spontaneous and relational activities, which were not conceptualized by psychoanalytic theory in the past.

The main reason for this can be summarised in the contraposition between the tendency towards inertia in the nervous apparatus as imagined by Freud and the child’s natural propensity to search for stimuli. This evident predisposition has been the basis for many studies regarding the significance and validity of the Freudian concept from a developmental point of view (Peterfreund, 1971; Lichtenberg, 1989), with the result that many of its metapsycho-logical foundations have been severely undermined (Greenberg &Mitchell, 1983; Eagle, 1984).

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