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Psychiatry. 1996 Fall;59(3):213-39.

Affect, attachment, memory: contributions toward psychobiologic integration.

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Langley Porter Psychiatric Institute, San Francisco, CA 94143-0984, USA.


Recent decades have seen a marked expansion in knowledge regarding human neurophysiology, and psychiatry is currently challenged with the task of integrating this information with a psychodynamic understanding of emotional life. In this paper we review portions of the relevant literature regarding the basic brain functions of affect, memory, and attachment, and we consider the implications of these data for integrated psychobiologic conceptualizations of emotional dysfunction and its treatment. In particular, data from these three areas of study point to the possibility that implicit memory of the early attachment relationship, communicated via the language of affect, is an enduring neural structure that influences both emotional self-regulation and behavior related to relatedness. Finally, we consider the implications of this proposition for the nature of psychotherapy, which from a psychobiologic view might be profitably conceptualized as a directed attachment relationship whose purpose is the revision of the implicit emotional memory of attachment.

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