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Alexander, B. Feigelson, S. Gorman, J.M. (2005). Response to Commentaries. Neuropsychoanalysis, 7(2):165-170.

(2005). Neuropsychoanalysis, 7(2):165-170

Response to Commentaries Related Papers

Brian Alexander, Suzanne Feigelson and Jack M. Gorman

In the field of theoretical physics, enormous attention is currently expended on attempting to discover a “Theory of Everything” (TOE). There are four forces of nature: gravity, electromagnetism, the strong force, and the weak force. The latter three have now been successfully merged, but gravity remains an outlier that irks physicists, driving them to concoct ever more exotic hypotheses, like string theory, to finally get everything into one mathematical whole. As Robert Cancro generously observes, Einstein too was frustrated in his attempt to compose a single unified theory. Biological scientists have never dreamed of such an enterprise, recognizing, we are sure, that it would never work. Rather, for the most part we are content with a diversity of theories and hypotheses to explain and predict the myriad phenomena within the organic world. No surprise, then, that several of our commentators noted the rather grandiose task we set out on when we decided to see whether anything now understood in the realm of the basic neuroscience of conditioned fear could possibly be useful in considering psychoanalytic ideas about an anxiety disorder like panic disorder. Molecular neuroscience and psychoanalysis are two venerable disciplines that seemingly need very little help from Alexander, Feigelson, and Gorman. So why, in fact, did we bother with this attempt at synthesis in the first place?

In psychoanalytic school, one of the first things a candidate reads is the work by Freud commonly known as “The Project” (1950 [1895]). Here, Freud wrestles with what was known in the late nineteenth century about the brain to construct a theory of mind. He got to the point of describing one neuron stimulating another, but he became stuck with the fundamental question of what happens to all that neural energy. Unless discharged, Freud concluded, it would cause mischief. Hence, the earliest psychoanalytic theories of dammed-up libido either having an outlet or causing neurosis were born.

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