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Turnbull, O. Olds, D. (2011). Editors' Introduction. Neuropsychoanalysis, 13(1):3-3.

(2011). Neuropsychoanalysis, 13(1):3-3

Editors' Introduction

Oliver Turnbull and David Olds

Target Article

Our Target Article in this issue, “The Neural Basis of the Dynamic Unconscious,” is a trove of information integrating psychoanalytic and neuroscientific information. The author, Heather Berlin, surveys the extensive research showing that subliminal (and thereby subconscious) stimuli have complex effects in the brain and also on later behavior and conscious thought. Stimuli that are too briefly presented, or are “masked” by a subsequent—usually conscious—stimulus, will not reach awareness. But there are other mental processes that make use of subliminal processing of high-level brain functioning. Most dramatic are those that occur in the presence of brain lesions that produce modifications in conscious awareness. Well-known examples are blindsight, hemineglect, procedural learning in amnesia, and split-brain syndromes with corpus callosum lesions. In these cases, where conscious awareness of the stimulus is not possible, there are influences on behavior that show considerable below-consciousness processing. For instance, a blindsighted person, unaware of seeing anything, may still avoid running into objects in his or her path.

Early research on the conscious/unconscious interface dealt mostly with these phenomena involving cognitive processes, with little interest in the influence of the emotional and motivational aspects of mind. However, it has become increasingly evident that various rather “intellectual” processes, such as choices and decisions, are influenced by unconscious motivations and by the need to avoid emotionally aversive consequences.

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