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Palombo, S.R. (2001). Altered Egos: How the Brain Creates the Self: Todd E. Feinberg. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001, viii + 205 pp., $25.00. Neuropsychoanalysis, 3(2):252-253.

(2001). Neuropsychoanalysis, 3(2):252-253

Altered Egos: How the Brain Creates the Self: Todd E. Feinberg. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001, viii + 205 pp., $25.00

Review by:
Stanley R. Palombo, M.D.

Freud's “Project for a Scientific Psychology(1895), his frustrated attempt to base his psychoanalytic insights on a neurological foundation, foundered on the inability of the neuroscience of his time to explain anything as complex as a thought or feeling. Neuroanatomists were busy connecting the dots, extending the wiring diagrams that linked identifiable parts of the brain. Much was learned in this way, but not about the hierarchical structure of the brain or the brain's relation to the mind.

In the last decade a consensus has been developing among scientists of many disciplines that the mind is an emergent property of the brain. Complex organizations have properties that surpass the properties of their components. As the complexity of an organ like the brain increases, its capacities become more and more remote from the capacities of individual neurons. Our appreciation for the vastness and complexity of the brain's organization has grown, and our awareness that the activity of the whole brain is manifest in a flexible representational system with elegant and elaborate decision-making capabilities has become less mystifying for us than it was in Freud's time and after.

With an emphasis on emergent properties and hierarchical organization, scientists from fields with superficially unrelated methodologies have found new common ground. Ideas generated in the laboratory and the consulting room are converging. Examples from both ends of this convergence appear in How Brains Make up Their Minds (Freeman, 2001) and The Emergent Ego: Complexity and Coevolution in the Psychoanalytic Process (Palombo, 1999), among other recent contributions. In Altered Egos: How the Brain Creates the Self, Todd Feinberg, an Associate Professor of Neurology and Psychiatry at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, approaches the same questions by examining the changes in a patient's experienced selfimage produced by a variety of neurological deficits.

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