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Salas, C.E. (2013). W. M. Bernstein: A Basic Theory of Neuropsychoanalysis. London: Karnac, 2011. ISBN: 978-1-8557-809-4, 296 pp., £22.19.. Neuropsychoanalysis, 15(1):103.

(2013). Neuropsychoanalysis, 15(1):103

W. M. Bernstein: A Basic Theory of Neuropsychoanalysis. London: Karnac, 2011. ISBN: 978-1-8557-809-4, 296 pp., £22.19.

Review by:
Christian E. Salas

This is an unusual neuropsychoanalytic book. By unusual I mean something rare, out of the ordinary, in relation to what we are used to reading on the neuropsychoanalytic “circuit.” To my knowledge, no one before Bernstein has systematically brought together social psychology, psychoanalysis, and neuroscience. Interestingly, this peculiar combination of elements seems to work, offering a theoretical framework that brings down to earth complex neuropsychoanalytic ideas (e.g., Appendix III). This is not a minor accomplishment nowadays, and I do believe that is the result of a special ingredient: Bernstein's experimentally oriented mind, which treats psychoanalytic concepts as experimental objects. This attitude, however, does not stop him from diving deeply into conceptual psychoanalytic explorations when needed. The balance between these two attitudes is a signature that infiltrates the chapters of the book and Bernstein's presentation of his Basic Theory of Neuropsychoanalysis.

Bernstein theory starts out from a quite interesting point, which is that most contemporaneous psychoanalytic theories are focused on understanding affect regulation processes. In his own words, “at bottom, psychoanalytic and all clinical schools of psychology are attempting to understand the relationship between concepts and the regulation of the person's energy” (p. 16). This is an interesting proposition to adopt in a neuropsychoanalytic enterprise, because it places the object of study just at the junction of affect and cognition, a hot spot for affective neuroscience (see Davidson, 2000; Duncan & Barrett, 2007; Panksepp, 2004) and an urgent scientific problem in psychopathology research (Kring, 2010; Kring & Sloan, 2010).

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