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Panksepp, J. (1999). Emotions as Viewed by Psychoanalysis and Neuroscience: An Exercise in Consilience. Neuropsychoanalysis, 1(1):15-38.

(1999). Neuropsychoanalysis, 1(1):15-38

Emotions as Viewed by Psychoanalysis and Neuroscience: An Exercise in Consilience

Jaak Panksepp

Affective and cognitive neuroscientists are now in a position to link concrete neural entities to various abstract psychological and psychoanalytic concepts. Of course, we can anticipate that psychoanalytic theory and terminologies may need to be modified and finetuned when placed in the crucible of neuroscience. Likewise, functional neuroscience may become more refined by being ground with the pestle of psychoanalytic thought. Unfortunately, like the proverbial patient with a full array of defenses, practitioners of both disciplines may be reluctant to embrace change. The best that can be hoped for at present is that ongoing debates will promote positive interchange that leads to informative empirical inquiries. Clearly, psychoanalysis needs to anchor its thinking in a manner that will promote the empirical evaluation of ideas, and neuroscience needs to take emotional dynamics and defenses more seriously than it has in the past.

The polarity between traditional psychoanalytic and neuroscientific views can be documented by a simple Medline search requesting papers from 1966 to the present (June 5, 1998) that concurrently discuss psychoanalytic (a total of 2478 citations) and brain issues (a total of 240,567 citations). Such a search yielded only 40 papers, and it is noteworthy that none appeared in journals devoted primarily to neuroscience. Thus, psychoanalysis is beginning to seek a substantive connection to neuroscience (Solms, 1996; Schore, 1997) but there has been little reciprocity.

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