How Does Psychoanalysis Work? Freud's Enduring Legacy in Light of 21st Century Systems Neuroscience

Lecture by Richard D. Lane, introduced by Stephan Doering (in English)


Thursday, March 2, 2023, at 19 h

Library of Psychoanalysis at the Sigmund Freud Museum


Registration required: To participate on-site, please register below.


Freud famously said that “patients suffer from reminiscences”. By that he meant that certain emotionally painful memories, often from childhood, are kept out of awareness but continue to adversely affect social behavior and well-being later in life. Freud was also the first person to recognize that memories are not fixed but can be updated and transformed under appropriate circumstances, a phenomenon now known as memory reconsolidation. This observation, now validated by the most rigorous neuroscientific research, provides the foundation for transforming memories for clinical benefit. This talk will highlight how current neuroscientific understanding of memory, emotion and their interaction provide a plausible mechanistic explanation for how enduring change in psychoanalysis and psychodynamic psychotherapy takes place. Highlights will be presented of a new course to be taught this spring inspired by this new perspective, followed by a brief overview of research to be conducted in the months ahead aiming to show how these changes operate in the brain and how such changes may be measured in clinical outcome research in psychoanalysis. In light of this progress, the field may be on the verge of providing a plausible, neuroscientifically-grounded explanation for how psychoanalysis works that Freud wished for but could only dream of a century ago.


Richard D. Lane, M.D., Ph.D. is Professor of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Arizona. A clinical psychiatrist and psychodynamic psychotherapist with a Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology (systems neuroscience and emotion research), he was among the first researchers to perform functional brain imaging studies of emotion in the 1990s and continues research on emotion, emotional awareness and brain-body interactions to the present. His research on emotion, the brain and heart disease has been funded by several major grants from the National Institutes of Health in the United States and many other sources. He is the author of 200 papers and book chapters and is senior editor of two books including Neuroscience of Enduring Change: Implications for Psychotherapy published by Oxford University Press in 2020. Guiding themes in his research and scholarship have been the importance of integrating systems neuroscience with psychological conceptualizations and the need to bridge basic science and clinical application. Honors include being President of the American Psychosomatic Society in 2006, a Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and an Honorary Fellow of the American College of Psychoanalysts.

For four months beginning in March 2023 he will serve as the Fulbright-Freud Visiting Lecturer of Psychoanalysis during which he will teach the course “Memory, Emotion and the Neuroscience of Enduring Change: Implications for Psychoanalysis” at the Department of Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy of the Medical University of Vienna and do research on memory reconsolidation as a mechanism of enduring change in psychoanalysis.


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