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Gallese, V. UmiltĂ , M.A. (2002). From Self-Modeling to the Self Model: Agency and the Representation of the Self Commentary by Vittorio Gallese and Maria Alessandra UmiltĂ . Neuropsychoanalysis, 4(1):35-40.

(2002). Neuropsychoanalysis, 4(1):35-40

From Self-Modeling to the Self Model: Agency and the Representation of the Self Commentary by Vittorio Gallese and Maria Alessandra Umiltà

Vittorio Gallese and Maria Alessandra Umiltà


Neurophysiology, the discipline that investigates the functional organization of the brain and its relation with behavior, has traditionally privileged the study of “simple” problems such as the organization of sensory and motor systems. During the last two decades, however, issues such as attention, intention, and ultimately even consciousness, traditionally fields of investigation of the cognitive and philosophical sciences, have progressively become the challenging targets of more and more neuroscientists. This fact certainly represents a major turn in the history of the scientific study of brain functions. Furthermore, it enables the possibility to establish a dialogue with other disciplines, such as psychoanalysis, that instead from the very beginning put some of these issues at the center of its research agenda.

In his stimulating paper Milrod is seeking to establish such an interdisciplinary dialogue, choosing as subject the concept of self and its representation. Milrod proposes that the gradual development of the self is paralleled by object representation. In the present commentary we would like to focus on some recent neuroscientific data that may contribute to shed some light on several attributes of the self. We will do so trying hard not to surrender to the temptation, common among man neuroscientists, to “reduce” the problem of the self and of its representation to the mere activity of a series of cortical networks. As quite correctly pointed out by the German philosopher Thomas Metzinger (2000), reduction is a relationship between theories, and not between phenomena.

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