Ruby P.M. (2013). What would be the benefits of a collaboration between psychoanalysis and cognitive neuroscience? The opinion of a neuroscientist. Front.Hum.Neurosci.doi:10.3389/fnhum 2013.00475.
Psychoanalysis was conceived and developed for clinical purposes at the beginning of the 20th century. Freud’s main goal was to treat neurotic patients and psychotic patients. As a consequence of this great enterprise he developed a theory to explain the functioning of the human mind. A critical contribution of his work was the theory of the unconscious and the proposal that even if unconscious, a representation can influence a subject’s behavior. Freud believed that unconscious thoughts and feelings may cause a patient to experience life difficulties and/or maladjustments. He proposed that the process of freeing unconscious thoughts could help a patient gain insight into and ultimately improve his/her situation. Therefore, Freud developed techniques to decode unconscious images, and to free them through patient insight (e.g.,Freud 1901).
Cognitive neuroscience is a rather young discipline. It was developed in the 1980’s and has been strongly linked to the advancement of neuroimaging techniques (mainly positron emission tomography, PET, and functional magnetic resonance imaging, fMRI). The main goal of this discipline is to understand the functioning of the human brain/psyche. A consequence of this great enterprise has been, and hopefully will be, clinical applications. Cognitive neuroscience is fundamentally interested in processes/effects which can be found in several subjects rather than in the specific functioning of single subjects. Of importance, at the moment, this discipline does not provide a consensual and comprehensive theory of the human mind. It has, nevertheless, demonstrated that neuroscientific results can help to shape psychological theories or to disentangle between psychological theories (e.g., Henson 2005, Poldrack 2006, Legrand and Ruby 2009).