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Int J Psychoanal. 1999 Dec;80 ( Pt 6):1205-13.

Psychoanalysis and the neurosciences: a topical debate on dreams.


The author begins by pointing out that, whereas Freud first turned his attention to dreams in 1895, they became an object of neuroscientific interest only in the 1950s, after the discovery of rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep and the observation that a subject woken in an REM phase could remember and narrate them. He discusses the various brain structures found by the neuroscientists to be implicated in dreaming and the associated hypotheses about their involvement in the processes of remembering dreams, their spatial construction and semantic organisation, and the dreamer's emotional participation in and narration of dreams. Attention is drawn to recent psychophysiological research findings indicating that dreaming occurs in all sleep phases and not only in REM episodes. The cognitivist contribution is also discussed. The author goes on to demonstrate the difference between the neuroscientific and psychoanalytic approaches to dreams. Whereas the neuroscientists are interested in the structures involved in dream production and in dream organisation and narratability, psychoanalysis concentrates on the meaning of dreams and on placing them in the context of the analytic relationship in accordance with the affective history of the dreamer and the transference. The brain structures and functions of interest to the neurosciences, while constituting the physical and biological substrate of these aspects, are stated to be irrelevant to their psychoanalytic understanding.

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