Aliza Shevrin in honor of Howard Shevrin, July, 20, 2019
(Ariane Bazan) So Aliza, maybe you first want to say a few words about Howard Shevrin.
“It’s wonderful to be here again. He used to come here year after year and I’m delighted to be here. I’m happy to be here and I’m also sad to be here and I know that Howie would have loved to be here especially to present or to hear about those people writing about him. Because that was really one of his main wishes and hopes: to see that there are students, researchers and scientists who will carry on his work.
I’m calling him Howie. His name was Howard but everybody knew him as Howie. Howard was truly a renaissance man, a man of all seasons – a very smart guy, a very busy guy devoted to his work, to his large family – that I was luckily part of that. But a man who loved his life, loved his work, his research and the people he worked with. He loved his students, his patients, all of those that he came in touch with day after day. And it is those who I thank and honor.
I also personally thank Bob Berry because of his enormous involvement financially and in every other ways. And then some of his students who are here: our wonderful Ariane [Bazan] here and Marks Solms, Lisa Ouss and Gertrudis Van de Vijver, the late Jaak Panksepp with whom he worked. Both of them were really good friends. And also the late Marjorie Pfeffer who used to sponsor dinner parties in New York, after meetings there. So these and more people have contributed to his work.
Howie died a month before his 92nd birthday. He truly had a wonderful life. The night he died we were saying ‘goodnight’ and he reminded me: ‘‘be sure you wake me up! Don’t let me sleep too late.’’ This is now on Thursday night and he said: ‘‘I have a meeting Sunday morning with the research group in our house and I have to go over some stuff before the meeting.’’ These were his last words. These are the words he spoke before he died. Research!
His legacy through this prize this is a new beginning. This is what he wanted: that students, scientists, teachers and patients would continue his work. And so I thank you all for inviting me here and I wish you a good legacy.
In honor of the special friendship of three men – Alfred Pritchard Sloan, William Clare Menninger and Karl Augustus Menninger – and in honor of Howard Shevrin, who died in Ann Arbor on January 18, 2018, a one thousand dollar prize was awarded to an emerging researcher and a two thousand dollar prize to an established researcher at the occasion of the 20th International Neuropsychoanalysis Congress in Brussels, 18-20 July, 2019.
In making this award, priority was given to research paradigms that connected to empirically testable areas of Freudian classical metapsychology. The winners, Vittorio Gallese (established researcher) and Martina Wernicke (emerging researcher), were announced on the 20th of July in the presence of Aliza Shevrin.
Vittorio Gallese is currently professor of Psychobiology at the University of Parma, Italy. He was visiting professor at various prestigious universities, and has an impressive publication record.
Gallese’s research deals with neurophysiology, cognitive neuroscience, social neuroscience, and philosophy of mind. His major scientific contributions are the discovery of mirror neurons together with his colleagues in Parma, and the development of a new unified model of perception and intersubjectivity known as Embodied Simulation Theory. Through his empirical investigation of the neural basis of social cognition, Vittorio Gallese has made a great contribution in shedding new light on the role of the body in the development of the bodily self, not only in relation to more common intersubjective situations, but also in relation to psychopathological disorders such as schizophrenia, autism, and eating disorders. His theoretical and empirical investigation of embodied cognition has also been applied to aesthetics and language.
The importance for psychoanalysis of Gallese’s mirror neuron theory, and in particular the idea that language understanding goes through a mechanism for recognizing actions made by others, cannot be overestimated. This system, first discovered in the precursor of Broca’s area, shows how being into language activates the proper language motor areas, and that speech understanding is close to action representation. What is mentally effective is also heavily organized along motor organizational lines: the mental world of a subject is the result of its action intentions and not the mere product of the imprinting of impressions. This account allows for an understanding of the Freudian word presentation and the Lacanian signifier as a phonemic motor fragment, leading, then, to applying motor logics to the mental, including action prediction and predictive attenuation (coding). The epistemological potential of the idea that the representational, mental world is grounded in sensorimotor patterns – the importance of which cannot be underestimated for (Freudian and Lacanian) psychoanalysis – is huge, and there is no doubt that Gallese is one of the most prominent figures to have promoted it, thereby realizing a close connection between the neurosciences, psychoanalysis and philosophy.
Martina Wernicke is a psychologist who works in the field of experimental neuroscience. After defending her thesis “Approaching Consciousness with Masked Priming” in 2014, she started training as a psychological psychotherapist and began working in the field of paraphilia. In 2018 she joined Prof. Dr. Kristian Folta-Schoofs’ “Neurodidactics & NeuroLab” at the University of Hildesheim. For the past 10 years she has also worked in socio-psychiatric assistance and counselling.
The study “Neural correlates of subliminally presented visual sexual stimuli” (Wernicke et al., 2017) reveals differences in the processing of preferred versus non-preferred, as well as explicit versus non-explicit sexual stimuli. Performances in an objective visibility test indicate that especially preferred explicit stimuli are more likely to reach consciousness. Taking into account recent literature, hemodynamic responses to these stimuli shed light on this process.