Professor Karl Friston is one of the most prominent (and prolific) researchers in the field of neuroimaging. His contributions to methodological development in functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) are immense:
He invented statistical parametric mapping; SPM is an international standard for analysing imaging data and rests on the general linear model and random field theory (developed with Keith Worsley). In 1994, his group developed voxel-based morphometry. VBM detects differences in neuroanatomy and is used clinically and as a surrogate in genetic studies... In 2003, he invented dynamic causal modelling (DCM), which is used to infer the architecture of distributed systems like the brain. Mathematical contributions include variational filtering and dynamic expectation maximization (DEM) for Bayesian model inversion and time-series analysis.Dr Robin Carhart-Harris and Professor Friston have a new article in the Occasional Papers section of the journal Brain that might raise a few eyebrows. Its title? The default-mode, ego-functions and free-energy: a neurobiological account of Freudian ideas. What might cause the raising of eyebrows? Well, Freudian ideas have been largely rejected by mainstream neuroscience, although there have been some notable exceptions (Turnbull & Solms, 2007):
Psychoanalysis has had a turbulent and complex relationship with neuropsychology for the century in which the two fields have existed – largely side by side. Some within the neuroscientific community have found much of value in Freudian ideas – Paul Schilder springs to mind as an early example, with Eric Kandel as the most prominent recent advocate (Kandel, 1999). However, for most neuropsychologists, indeed for most scientists, the obvious response to the mention of psychoanalysis has been one of blanket rejection.The renowned sleep and dreaming expert J. Allan Hobson (2007) has been a particularly harsh critic:
With respect to dreams, Sigmund Freud was not only not right. He was dead wrong. And so are Turnbull and Solms (2007) in their desperate effort to save Freudian psychoanalysis from the junk heap of speculative philosophy. Neuroscientists, psychologists, and psychiatrists beware: you are being led down the garden path by this pair of misguided neo-Freudians.It is with this stormy background in mind that one should embark on reading the Brain paper. Mercifully, for those lacking the mathematical background to understand even the most rudimentary quantitative formulation of Friston's free-energy principle (2009, 2006), the paper is free of equations. No matter what you think of the final result, it's an intellectual tour de force with 493 quotes from Freud in 70 pages of Supplementary Data. Essentially, the approach is to take a collection of cutting-edge and trendy ideas in neuroscience and map them onto Freud's id and ego. For your convenience, here is a list of the main neuroscientific concepts:
- Bayesian Brain
- Default Mode Network
- Free Energy
- Gamma Oscillations
- Prediction Error
- Theta Oscillations
- Top-Down Control
For "accessibility" cathexis was interpreted in a generic (not specifically sexual) sense to mean activation or energy. But according to Freud, mental energy is the id, the psychic energy that powers the mind:
Freud defined Libido as the instinct energy or force. Freud later added the Death drive (also contained in the id) as a second source of mental energy.Next time we'll take a closer look at this ambitious synthesis of psychoanalysis and neuroimaging.
Arrangement for psychotherapy fMRI studies using the couch of Sigmund Freud. See Psychodynamic Psychotherapy in the Scanner?
Carhart-Harris, R., & Friston, K. (2010). The default-mode, ego-functions and free-energy: a neurobiological account of Freudian ideas Brain DOI: 10.1093/brain/awq010
Friston K. (2009) The free-energy principle: a rough guide to the brain? Trends Cog Sci. 13:293-301. [PDF]
Friston K, Kilner J, Harrison L. (2006). A free energy principle for the brain. J Physiol Paris 100:70-87. [PDF]
Kandel ER. (1999). Biology and the future of psychoanalysis: A new intellectual framework for psychiatry revisited. Am J Psychiatry 156: 505-524.
Hobson JA. (2007). Wake up or dream on? Six questions for Turnbull and Solms. Cortex 43:1113-5; discussion 1116-21.
Turnbull OH, Solms M. (2007). Awareness, desire, and false beliefs: Freud in the light of modern neuropsychology. Cortex 43:1083-90.
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