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Bazan, A. (2017). Alpha Synchronization as a Brain Model for Unconscious Defense: An Overview of the Work of Howard Shevrin and His Team. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 98(5):1443-1473.

(2017). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 98(5):1443-1473

Research Paper

Alpha Synchronization as a Brain Model for Unconscious Defense: An Overview of the Work of Howard Shevrin and His Team

Ariane Bazan

(Accepted for publication 21 October 2016)

Howard Shevrin and his team have developed a stringent subliminal priming methodology, which experimentally approximates a situation of an internal, mental triggering of unconscious defense. Through a series of four studies they thus are able to bring evidence for this type of unconscious defense. With event-related potentials, three clinical studies show how synchronization of a specific brain wave, the alpha wave, known for its inhibitory function, is also induced by subliminally presented conflictual subject-specific stimuli. Therefore, alpha synchronization could serve as the brain mechanism of unconscious defense. The results only make sense if we suppose the existence of a dynamic unconscious, which has inherited childhood conflicts, and with privileged connections to neurotic symptom characteristics. Moreover, by showing that the unconscious conflict phrases, inferred by clinicians from clinical interviews, have a similar brain behavior, Shevrin and his team provide evidence that these inferences are not simply clinician-dependent subjective interpretations but also imply some form of independent mental reality. Finally, interpretation of the results has led us to propose two distinct physiological mechanisms for defense: one, unconscious defense, by alpha synchronization in connection with the drive derivatives, and another, repression, based on the indications of reality in connection with the ego.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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