Michael Moutoussis on “No-one can serve two masters: Either we will do justice to studying the brain, or to understanding human relationships”
London Neuropsychoanalysis Group
The event is free.
Abstract: We meet ourselves and others on the basis of emotionally structured, effective beliefs that we hold about relationships. When our feelings and actions conform to such effective beliefs, but we have no or little subjective access to the beliefs, we call them ‘unconscious’. When our effective beliefs mislead us, psychotherapy often helps us construct more authentic personal myths. For many of us, however, the tenets of psychotherapy have not been adequately tested in the crucible of well-controlled experiments. I will therefore present a few studies that aimed to provide evidence for, or against, the scientific basis of psychotherapy principles. These bore interesting results, but also brought to light important difficulties, both regarding psychotherapy theory but, more importantly, regarding research itself in this area. I will offer some observations, both personal and systemic, about the process of this research and extend and invitation to associate, and to think, about the practice of neuropsychoanalysis research. Such thinking can help us understand desires, fantasies and resistances, in us scientists, clinicians and in society, which stand in the way of progress. Where by ‘progress’ I here mean the scientific study of effective beliefs about relationships that really matter for patients, beliefs that help set people free to ‘love and to work’.
Bio: I am interested in computational models of mental health problems, especially those relevant to psychological treatments. Are the sufferings and satisfactions of an unwell brain the phenomenal correlates of inappropriate computations? Focusing this question well greatly benefits from clinical experience, as clinical relevance is paramount. Within our very promising field of computational psychiatry, it is crucial to delineate with greater certainty which domains of normative information processing ‘give way’ in psychiatric disorders and which are only peripherally involved. My clinical interests, such as psychosis and personality disorder, have inspired me to study how people see each other’s minds. Together with colleagues, we have gathered important insights as to the nature of choice variability and taste uncertainty. I work on important aspects of the relation between basic value-based information processing and high-level psychiatric symptoms, especialy self- and other- evaluation. I have pioneered the idea that computational psychiatry should focus on what matters most for psychological treatments such mentalization-based and cognitive-behavioural therapies, benefit from the great advances of the empirically-based psychological therapies and help trouble-shoot their weaknesses. In terms of biography, I was born and raised in Athens, Greece. I studied Physics – my first love. I then studied Medicine, physiology and psychiatric research methodology while carrying out early mathematical modelling relevant to psychiatry. I earned specialist medical registration as a psychiatrist in Psychotherapy. In my Ph.D. I carried out experimental (clinical-psychological) and computational (temporal-difference and ideal bayesian observer) studies of paranoid delusions. My wife is a classical musician and we have two adult children.