TSC 2010 Pre-Conference Workshop


Session 2, Monday Afternoon, April 12 (2:00pm-6:00pm)     TCC - COCONINO

Half Day, $75                                                                                        


Neural Basis of Suppression, Repression and Dissociation


Heather Berlin, Michael C. Anderson



This workshop will explore the relationship between neuroscience and psychoanalytic theories. A great deal of complex cognitive processing occurs at the unconscious level and affects how humans behave, think and feel. But scientists are only beginning to understand how this occurs on the neural level. Understanding the neural basis of consciousness requires an account of the neural mechanisms that underlie both conscious and unconscious thought, and their dynamic interaction. For example, how do conscious impulses, thoughts, or desires become unconscious (e.g. repression) or, conversely, how do unconscious impulses, desires, or motives become conscious (e.g. Freudian slips)? Research taking advantage of advances in technologies, like functional magnetic resonance imaging, has led to a revival and re-conceptualization of some of the key concepts of psychoanalytic theory, and progress at understanding their neural basis. According to psychoanalytic theory, unconscious dynamic processes defensively remove anxiety-provoking thoughts and impulses from consciousness in response to one’s conflicting attitudes. Within this framework, the processes that keep unwanted thoughts from entering consciousness include repression, suppression and dissociation. We will discuss studies from psychology and cognitive neuroscience in both healthy and patient populations that are beginning to elucidate the neural basis of these phenomena, and will propose a trajectory for future neuroscientific studies in this emerging field.

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Heather A. Berlin is Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, where she also completed an NIMH Postdoctoral Fellowship, and conducts research with brain lesion, and impulsive, compulsive, and dissociative disorder patients. She earned her doctorate in Neuropsychology from the University of Oxford, Master of Public Health from Harvard University, Master’s in Psychology from the New School for Social Research, and Bachelor of Science from SUNY Stony Brook. Dr. Berlin has conducted clinical research with diverse psychiatric and neurological populations in both the US and UK, she lectures widely, nationally and internationally, and has published her research in many prominent journals.  Dr. Berlin was also a Visiting Assistant Professor at Vassar College, and a Visiting Lecturer at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH)/University in Zurich, and at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, teaching courses on the Neurobiology of Consciousness.

Michael C. Anderson is professor of cognitive neuroscience at the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit in Cambridge, England, and honorary professor of the University of St. Andrews, Scotland. For the past 20 years, Dr. Anderson has been studying the cognitive and neural mechanisms by which people control unwanted memories, with a particular focus on the involvement of motivated inhibitory control. He is widely known internationally for his work on people’s ability to suppress memory retrieval, and the potential role that such mechanisms may play in inducing motivated forgetting, with work appearing in Science, Nature, and Psychological Review. His current research focuses on developing a neurobiological model of how inhibitory control may contribute to motivated memory regulation, and methods by which this basic science may help those suffering from intrusive memories.