neurobiologytreatmentLanius, U. F., Paulsen, S. L., & Corrigan, F.M. (2014). Neurobiology and Treatment of Traumatic Dissociation: Toward and Embodied Self.
Reviewed by: Anny Reyes, New York University

One can agree that research findings on the neurobiological underpinnings of psychopathology could help aid in forming successful interventions and treatments. However, there is a gap between science and practice. It is difficult to find a comprehensive integration of both research and clinical interventions in many psychopathological conditions such as traumatic stress syndromes and dissociation disorders. Dissociation is often explained in a dichotomous fashion, either in a psychoanalytic context or purely neurobiological, with no implications of a common ground. Neurobiology and Treatment of Traumatic Dissociation provides 22 chapters of integrative research and clinical applications written by various experts in the fields of affective and cognitive neuroscience, animal research, psychology, and psychiatry, among others.

The text is divided into two parts: the first part is focused on the neurobiology of dissociation and the second is dedicated to treatment and interventions. The first part of the book is aimed at providing the neurobiological framework behind traumatic dissociation that informs clinical practice and treatment. One of the main goals of the authors is to provide well-grounded research that could further advance the understanding of traumatic dissociation and create the missing dialogue between researchers and clinicians. The material in the first part of the book is very dense in neurobiology, neuroscience, and neuroendocrine terminology, which could present an obstacle for clinicians who do not have any neuroscience background. However, the authors provide explanations and definitions of many of the general concepts explored and they make occasional references to clinical terminology and treatment. It is noteworthy that the book is targeted at clinicians and researchers who are looking to further expand their expertise in traumatic dissociation.

The second part of the book is focused on treatment and integrating the research previously discussed. For each concept explored several options for treatment and intervention are provided, along with case examples and vignettes. The authors focus on the theoretical background of the treatments and not on step-by-step guidelines. Therefore, further reading is recommended if a clinician is interested in incorporating these interventions into their clinical practice. The editors did an exceptional job at putting together a comprehensive source of emerging research in the neurobiology of traumatic dissociation and stress.

Lanius, U. F., Paulsen, S. L., & Corrigan, F.M. (2014). Neurobiology and Treatment of Traumatic Dissociation: Toward and Embodied Self.
ISBN: 978-0-8261-0631-5.
Paperback. 510 pages. Includes: Index. Keywords: traumatic dissociation, neurobiology, integrative research.

SelfJohnston, A. & Malabou, C. (2013). Self and Emotional Life: Philosophy, Psychoanalysis, and Neuroscience. New York, New York: Columbia University Press. 276 pages. ISBN: 9780231158312.

Reviewed by Sue Roh, Columbia University

Adrian Johnston and Catherine Malabou in Self and Emotional Life coalesce two seemingly contradictory disciplines: psychoanalysis and neurobiology. While, historically, the two were disparate fields, neurobiology has made innovations that psychoanalysists can no longer ignore. Johnston and Malabou hypothesize that in the future, the field of psychoanalysis will see dramatic changes due to innovations in the life sciences; but the sort of change that will take place is where they diverge in opinion.

For this reason, Self and Emotional Life is not presented in a typical manner. Instead, it switches between Malabou and Johnston’s different arguments. Malabou believes that the future of psychoanalysis will be cut and overrun by neurobiology, but Johnston maintains that psychoanalysis will take into account the impressive advances of neurobiology and incorporate them into their methods of analysis. This disaccord can be attributed to their diverging opinion on the key role of psychoanalysis: While Johnston claims that psychoanalysis can theorize but not treat, Malabou affirms that analysis can neither theorize nor treat.

Johnston and Malabou explore the example of neural plasticity, which demonstrates neurobiology’s inability to elucidate all aspects of the brain. Even Damasio, a contemporary neurobiologist, implies that neurobiology is insufficient in studying the brain to its full capacity. Rather, our subjective experiences shape our brain in a significant way that cannot be ignored. Reducing the body to the brain is disregarding the importance of subjectivity.
The dual approach of neuro-psychoanalysis reconciles these two seemingly divergent fields, and, as Johnston notes, its emergence is a recent innovation. Never before has a coalescence of psychoanalysis, neurobiology, and Continental philosophy occurred. This coalescence will result not only in a new field of psychoanalysis but also innovations in neurobiology, a field which Damasio and LeDoux have spearheaded.

Self and Emotional Life fuses two seemingly opposing fields and is presented vis-à-vis two seemingly opposing arguments. The way the two authors introduce and contest each other’s arguments offers a nuanced and comprehensive understanding that allows the reader to conceptualize his or her perspective on subjectivity. Furthermore, it reaffirms the fact that one does not have to relinquish his or her philosophical soul in order to be engaged with neurobiology or the other life sciences.

Johnston, A. & Malabou, C. (2013). Self and Emotional Life: Philosophy, Psychoanalysis, and Neuroscience. New York, New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN: 978-0-231-15831-2.
Paperback. 276 pages. Includes index.