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, annual prizes are awarded to an emerging researcher and an established researcher.
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.
The 2020 winners of the Sloan-Menninger-Shevrin Prizes are Linda Brakel (established researcher) and Tali Marron (emerging researcher). The 2021 prizes were possible thanks to gracious gifts from Mr Bob Berry.
Linda A.W. Brakel
Linda A.W. Brakel’s official training is as a psychiatrist/psychoanalyst, but she has developed a keen interest in interdisciplinary work over the last several decades. She has done empirical experimental work regarding the primary processes, developing a simple-to-use independent measure of primary versus secondary processes, the GeoCat. She has investigated primary processes in non-human animals, in an evolutionary biology context. Professor Brakel has also engaged in fields cognate to psychoanalytic theory, notably the philosophy of mind, and the philosophy of action. Lately she has become interested in Experimental Philosophy, and not merely because of its cool nickname – X-Phi. Linda A.W. Brakel is the author of many articles, three co-written books, and four solo books – Philosophy, Psychology and the A-Rational Mind (OUP, 2009); Unconscious Knowing and Other Essays in Psycho-Philosophical Analysis (OUP, 2010); The Ontology of Psychology (Routledge, 2013); and Investigations into the Trans Self and Moore’s Paradox (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2021).
Dr Tali R. Marron is a clinical psychologist, working with children and adolescents at the Shalvata Mental Health Center (Israel), and in a private clinic in Tel-Aviv. Tali completed her PhD at Bar-Ilan University under the supervision of Professor Miriam Faust and Dr Ety Berant. Her PhD title was Neurobehavioral investigation of free associations: The relation between psychodynamic therapy and verbal creativity, and her research constitutes an in-depth investigation of Freudian concepts, specifically of free association, through high-end brain imaging techniques and therapeutic protocols. In her dissertation she used fMRI brain imaging to shed light on the neural mechanisms of free association and on the role of free association in creativity and in therapeutic processes. Several articles based on her dissertation research have since been published. Tali is an active member in the Israeli Neuropsychoanalysis group and a member of the International Neuropsychoanalysis Society.
The 2021 winners of the Sloan-Menninger-Shevrin Prizes are Michael Anderson (established researcher) and Gerd Waldhauser (emerging researcher). The 2021 prizes were possible thanks to gracious gifts from Mr Bob Berry and Mrs Aliza Shevrin.
As members of our Society will know, Mike Anderson is the world authority on ‘motivated’ or active forgetting – a field that has enormous overlap with the classical analytic concept of repression. Professor Anderson is a Senior scientist and programme leader at the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit at the University of Cambridge, where he studies the cognitive and neural mechanisms underlying forgetting in long-term memory. He has been at the heart of re-energising the classical analytic topic of repression, and the related concept of defence. He has investigated these phenomena at the behavioural, subjective experience and the neurobiological level, and in doing so has been extremely influential in a number of ways. He is a wonderful winner of a prize aimed at better understanding the metapsychology and the brain basis of core psychoanalytic concepts such as repression.