BRAIN AND PSYCHE: The Biology of the Unconscious by Jonathan Winson

BRAIN AND PSYCHE: The Biology of the Unconscious

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To attempt to bridge psychoanalysis and neuroscience, always a challenge, is an act of daring today--in light of the increasing tendency to ""neurologize"" psychiatry, find fault with Freud, and attack all variants of psychotherapy as unproductive and unscientific. Rockefeller U. neuroscientist Winson brings off the act with considerable aplomb. He offers the sophisticated reader a four-course meal. The first is a sampling of neuroscientific studies of memory, perception, emotion, sleep-and-dreaming. Winson explains the essential neuroanatomy of the hippocampus and limbic system structures that are of critical importance in those functions, and describes the well-known case of H.M. This hapless individual underwent surgery in which both hippocampi were removed; as a result he has no immediate memory, but retains memory for events up to three years prior to surgery. In the second part, Winson presents a synthesis of Freud's evolving ideas, along with those of his rivals and American neo-Freudians--focusing on the theory of dreams and of the unconscious. The third part examines the development of neural mechanisms and looks more closely into their operation. The last part of the book is then devoted to Winson's hypothesis--""my idea of what the brain mechanisms may be that underlie unconscious mental processes."" He believes, with others, that dreams are strategies of behavior in which recent or more remote events are rehearsed, analyzed, consolidated. He finds an important substrate of dreaming in the hippocampus, which interacts with higher and lower brain centers, apparently integrating and adding affective components to events and apparently also acting as a gate restricting signals from moving along certain paths. The consolidation of events into long-term memory may involve a gradual phasing out of memory storage in the hippocampus to other parts of the cortex over a period of up to three years. Obviously the hypothesis is still in a formative stage. But Winson--no small accomplishment--provides enough of a window to stimulate discussion and legitimize words like conscious and unconscious on a neuroanatomical basis.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1984
Publisher: Anchor/Doubleday