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Matthis, I. Zellner, M. Deutsch, J. (2007). Toronto Group, International Neuropsychoanalytic Society. Neuropsychoanalysis, 9(2):233-234.

(2007). Neuropsychoanalysis, 9(2):233-234

Toronto Group, International Neuropsychoanalytic Society

Edited by:
Iréne Matthis, Maggie Zellner

James Deutsch

The Toronto Group, made up of diverse clinicians and researchers, has been grappling with the differences and overlaps between neuroscience and psychoanalysis, in particular the multiple perspectives that psychoanalysis brings to studying brain function in greater detail and complexity (e.g., conflict and defense) than hitherto with mainstream neuroscience methods.

Dr. Norman Doidge spoke, two months prior to its publication, about his new book, The Brain That Changes Itself (Doidge, 2007). He began with an enlightening discussion of the historic barriers (philosophical, political, religious, narcissistic) to the now accepted view of nervous tissue as malleable to experience throughout the lifespan. He pointed out how Freud, in the modern era, had anticipated by 60 years the concept of the learning synapse, of the principle of “use it or lose it.” If the brain is indeed a machine, it is one that is plastic, not fixed. Our human genetic heritage bestows the ability to learn new ways of learning. Unfortunately, in what the author terms the “plasticity paradox,” ruts or tracks can be formed, from repeated travels over the same plastic territory, limiting choice and possibility.

Doidge pointed out numerous examples of cortical reorganization, notably the efforts of researcher Michael Merzenich, in which, with a combination of support from others and the individual's motivated learning (which activates the nucleus basalis of Meynert and other nodes in reward circuits), remarkable changes can occur, in various neurological disease states.

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