By LELAND VAN DEN DAELE, core faculty in the Clinical Psychology (PsyD) prgram
Cognitive neuroscience demonstrates the link between mind and brain. Change in thought, emotion, or perception is associated with activation of neural networks. Change induced in the brain through chemicals, neurotransmitters, lesions, or transmagnetic stimulation is coupled with change in thought, emotion, or perception. Mind and brain seem so different yet isomorphic. They seem different because they are viewed from different vantage points. Mind encompasses the domain of the subjective; and the brain, the domain of the objective. Mind is experienced as within and brain is perceived as without.
But the idea of any simple mechanistic connection between mind and brain is doomed to failure. This was demonstrated 50 years ago when the renowned neurosurgeon Wilder Penfield implanted electrodes during open brain surgery in the human cortex. Successive activation of the same electrode implanted in exactly the same place elicited different memories, hallucinations, or sensations. What occurred did not arise from any one-to-one connection between a neuron and a memory, but depended upon the total equilibrium condition of the brain. From his eloquent experiments, science learned that neural pathways are dynamic and shifting, subject to systemic rules and complexity.
Neither brain nor mind appears to obey any simple determinist calculus. This is glaringly obvious when an individual “mind” is contextualized by family, group, culture, and economy. That is, what individuals think, feel, or perceive is influenced by their proximate and distal social and economic environment as well as physical change within their bodies.
This view finds expression in the social-cultural synthesis of the Frankfort School of psychoanalysis. On the one hand, mind is embedded in the body; on the other hand, mind is embodied in broader social-economic networks. Psychology, as embodied in psychodynamic theory, requires openness to causality at all levels and a broad base of understanding of the biological, ecological, interpersonal, cultural, and economic factors that influence human behavior.
As an outgrowth of my interest in the biology of mind, I am a member of the International Society for Neuropsychoanalysis. As a consequence of my appreciation for the Frankfort School and the role of the economy in influencing human conduct, every year for the last decade, I have penned an “Amateur’s Economic Forecast”. Read my Amateur Economic Forecast for 2011.
“What’s the connection?” you ask. Changes in the economy typically antecede large scale shifts in national aims and beliefs. The economy influences individual sense of security, hopefulness, and even causality. Like the behavior of neurological networks, how economic changes will play out over the next decade is unknown and unpredictable in any deterministic sense. But this does not mean that history does not play a role and that variations upon themes during analogous historical transitions may not appear. The disciplines of psychology and psychoanalysis are at the nexus of complexity.