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Shevrin, H. (2000). University of Michigan: Program of Research on Unconscious Processes. Neuropsychoanalysis, 2(1):110.

(2000). Neuropsychoanalysis, 2(1):110

University of Michigan: Program of Research on Unconscious Processes

Howard Shevrin, Ph.D.

The work of our University of Michigan group continues to be exciting, rewarding, and at times frustrating. When you do interdisciplinary work you discover that it is not easy to make friends in the disciplines you are trying to be interdisciplinary with. In our case it means reaching across to psychoanalysts on the one hand and neuroscientists and cognitive psychologists on the other. But we are making some progress, if not in making friends all the time, at least in striking up acquaintanceships.

Partly as a result of my commentary in the first issue of Neuro-Psychoanalysis on Jaak Panksepp's paper on affect, Panksepp has visited our group and we are planning some collaborative work on unconscious affect. We believe we have pretty good evidence that affect can be unconscious in very much the same way as an idea, fantasy, and motive can be unconscious. Our evidence shows that affective meaning, physiological arousal, and expressive signs can all be elicited unconsciously—that is all three dimensions of affect with the exception of consciousness. Further, it is then possible to explain what Freud posited as “one Unconscious talking to another.” We are responding unconsciously to the subtle changes in expressive signs, which are themselves indicators of unconscious affect.

A paper reporting some of these results will be published in the International Journal of Psychophysiology (Bernat, Bunce, and Shevrin, in press).

We have also just completed an anesthesia study in which we have demonstrated inhibitory effects on postoperative implicit memory, which appear to be the result of surgical trauma.

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