|Kunstadt, L.P. (1986). Brain and Psyche. The Biology of the Unconscious: By Jonathan Winson. Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1985. 300 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 55:689-690.|
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(1986). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 55:689-690
Brain and Psyche. The Biology of the Unconscious: By Jonathan Winson. Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1985. 300 pp.
This is an interesting, well-written book containing some novel ideas on the relation between brain and mind, but despite the title, it is not for psychoanalysts. The book elaborates one hypothesis that does not justify an analyst's time spent reading the three hundred pages of text.
About forty percent of the book is devoted to a presentation of some aspects of undergraduate physiological psychology. Its main point is to introduce the notion that the spiny anteater, family echidna, does not exhibit REM sleep, unlike the dozen or so other mammals which have been studied, but that this animal does have a relatively large prefrontal cortex, larger for its body size than that of any other living mammal, including man.
Another forty-odd percent of the text contains a historical overview of psychoanalysis. There is nothing in this section that is not already familiar to the analytic reader. The final fifteen percent makes up the crux of the book. (Actually, the core of the argument is presented in the first two pages of this section.) "The Hypothesis" is that the prefrontal cortex in ancestral monotremes served "to integrate experience over time," a phenomenon better known as learning. These early monotremes were able to carry out this "integration of new with older experience" during their waking state (that is, they could learn while awake) because they have oversized prefrontal cortices and did not need to learn too much anyway. Later mammals, including humans, replaced the prefrontal cortex solution with the REM sleep solution. That is, the functions carried out by the prefrontal cortex in monotremes, to "assimilate new information, associate it with memories of past experiences and formulate a plan to govern new behavior during the waking state," are carried out instead by REM sleep in the majority of mammals, which do not have very large prefrontal cortices.
1 The spiny anteater is a monotreme, a "primitive" mammal with many reptilian characteristics. The author uses it to represent the earliest mammals, from which humans evolved.
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