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Beutel, M.E. Dietrich, S. Stark, R. Brendel, G. Silbersweig, D. (2004). Pursuit of the emerging dialogue between psychoanalysis and neuroscience: Clinical and research perspectives. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 85(6):1493-1496.

(2004). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 85(6):1493-1496

Pursuit of the emerging dialogue between psychoanalysis and neuroscience: Clinical and research perspectives

Reported by:
Moderator Manfred E. Beutel , Sylvia Dietrich, Rudolf Stark, Gary Brendel and David Silbersweig

Stephan Hau (Frankfurt-am-Main), Michael O. Russ (London), Marianne Leuzinger-Bohleber (Frankfurt-am-Main) and Mark Solms (London) presented the paper ‘Characterisation of brain activity during sleep and dreaming with fMRI’.

Based on recent brain research and observations on brain-lesioned patients in psychoanalytic treatment, Solms and Kaplan-Solms posited a neurobiological dream theory: dreaming is seen as initiated by an arousing stimulus, sufficiently intense or persistent to activate the motivational mechanism of the brain. As goal-oriented action including access to the motor systems is blocked during sleep, activation follows a regressive course. Higher (memory, abstract thinking) and lower parts of the perceptual system (concrete imagery) become activated. As reflective systems in the frontal part of the brain are inactivated, the imagined scene is accepted uncritically and taken for real by the dreamer.

Based on hypotheses about specific functions of certain areas of the brain in the dream process, the authors intended to link brain activation patterns to defined phases of sleep. In their pilot studies, they have developed solutions for numerous methodological obstacles: Sleep stages are recorded polygraphically (EEG, EOG, EMG); sleep deprivation and adaptation to the scanner noise prepared subjects for sleep during fMRI recording. Dream reports are obtained by interviews after the scans; experienced and frequent dreamers are recruited (e.g. psychoanalysts).

In the first pilot experiments, four out of six subjects fell asleep during fMRI. Based on single case analyses, brain activity patterns differentiated between stages of sleep and appeared to be consistent with the aforementioned dream theory.

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