All About That Brain, All That Brain

All About That Brain, All That Brain

July 21, 2016MusingTherapy404Views

From Bloomberg, Science Daily, The Economist, New York Times.  Increased research into the brain has been a boon to clinical research and practice.  But how much do we really know about the brain?

The massive effort dedicated to understanding the human brain has helped to shed light about how therapy works.  For example, within psychoanalytic psychotherapy, a lot of brouhaha has been generated around using research findings to validate psychoanalytic concepts and theories.  In 2014, Bloomberg reported on research done at King’s College London and the University of Melbourne whose results seem to support Freud’s theory on the role of stress in hysteria (currently referred to as Conversion Disorder or Functional Neurological Disorder).  Recent research out of King’s College London (via Science Daily), has provided a more nuanced view of the findings.  So summarize their findings, Dr. Tim Nicholson, one of the researchers, stated

So, was Freud wrong about Hysteria? The answer is both yes and no. The results definitively show that Freud was wrong that stress will always be found. However, our study indicates he might have been right in that stressors or trauma are likely to be involved in causing CD — at least in some patients.

However, recent reports also serve as reminders that in spite of advances; we still know very little about the human brain.  Last week, The Economist published an article regarding the possible contamination of fMRI studies by false positives due to “erroneous statistical assumptions built into the algorithms” and a “bug” found in one of three popular software packages used for research.  And yesterday, the New York Times reported on a new brain map produced from the Human Connectome Project that identified nearly 100 new regions of the brain not previous mapped nor studied.  The report notes that

While an important advance, the new atlas is hardly the final word on the brain’s workings. It may take decades for scientists to figure out what each region is doing, and more will be discovered in coming decades.

Clearly, there is much more to learn about our brains and how it’s related to human experience of a mind.  Furthermore, this by no means implies a reduction or equating the mind to the brain.  How do you integrate brain research into your theoretical orientation or clinical practice?  Can talking about brain structures and function facilitate therapy?  For those in the brain research and related fields, do you have any response to The Economist’s article regarding the problem with the use of fMRI? Share your thoughts below or in social media!

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