In 2000, Dr. Mark Solms, the pioneering neurologist and psychoanalyst, founded both the International Neuro-Psychoanalytic Society and the Journal of Neuro-Psychoanalysis. Solms’ work includes the influential book The Brain and the Inner World: Introduction to the Neuroscience of Subjective Experience (2002). He describes complex processes within the brain that correlate with subjective experiences such as seeking, fear, panic, bonding, and playfulness. We are beginning to understand these drive-based systems both in terms of the brain structures involved and the neurochemistry, thus touching on the role of psychopharmacology to influence these fundamental experiences. Solms further discusses the neurological basis of such stalwart psychoanalytic concepts as the repetition compulsion, dreaming and obsessive-compulsive behaviors. The prefrontal cortex, structural home to the observing ego, is emerging as a substantive area of documented change resulting from successful treatment. Most exciting is the work he describes by Panksepp and D’Amasio on the emergent sense of self and the background state of consciousness: the convergence of brain function and our most fundamental states of mind.

As the emerging field of neuro-psychoanalysis has picked up steam, increasing numbers of training institutes are incorporating this subject into their curricula. Martin Silverman, MD, a senior training analyst at CPPNJ, chaired a meeting on “The Neurosciences In The Psychoanalytic Curriculum” in New York earlier this year. The committee reported on a survey of 24 psychoanalytic institutes, of which 17 offer a neuroscience course. Ten of these were offered as required courses while the other seven were offered as “continuing education.” The main reason given for not including neuroscience in the curriculum is “competition for time of training.” One conclusion of the workshop was that “the dominant and unifying figure influencing interest in neuroscience within the psychoanalytic field at present is Mark Solms” (Silverman, Meeting Minutes, January 15, 2010).