The Arnold Pfeffer Center for Neuropsychoanalysis of the New York Psychoanalytic Society and Institute
Saturday, May 5th 2018
“Mentalising Homeostasis: The somatic and Social Origins of the Self”
Katerina Fotopoulou, Ph.D.
According to cognitive neuroscience there are at least two ways of knowing yourself: One, through integrating multimodal signals into an egocentric reference frame and assigning the first person perspective; another, through the cognitive ability to disengage from the embodied first person perspective and adopt another person’s perspective on your experience. These research traditions have progressed with relative independence in the field. For example, different paradigms examine feelings of body ownership and agency from a first person perspective (e.g. the Rubber Hand Illusion) versus third person perspective, self-recognition in mirrors.
Inspired by psychoanalytic insights on development, Dr. Fotopoulou will present a set of behavioural and neuroscientific studies with healthy individuals, neurological patients with right-hemisphere damage, and patients with anorexia nervosa, putting forward the idea that first and third-person perspectives on the self dissociate and proximal, embodied experiences of affective congruency may act as the ‘emotional glue’ between such first and third-person perspectives on one’s own self-consciousness. Without such unification, self-consciousness is either dominated by egocentric (narcissistic), interoceptive priors (as in anosognosia for hemiplegia), or third-person (super-ego) judgements lacking in affective anchoring to the body (as in anorexia nervosa). By contrast, the progressive integration of these perspectives contributes not only in a flexible, unified experience of the self in adulthood, but our ability to understand other minds and empathise with their embodied and mental experience, even though ours may be different.