Mark Solms

Mark Solms (born 1961 in South Africa) is a psychoanalyst and a lecturer in neurosurgery at the St. Bartholomew’s and Royal London School of Medicine; chair of neuropsychology, University of Cape Town, South Africa and director of the Arnold Pfeffer Center for Neuro-Psychoanalysis at the New York Psychoanalytic Institute. He is a registrant of the BPC.

Contribution of Solms to neuro-psychoanalysis

Solms's aspiration is to develop a valid method for relating the clinical findings of psychoanalysis with knowledge generated by the neurological sciences (what Freud attempted to accomplish more than 100 years ago), an undertaking known today as the scientific field of neuro-psychoanalysis. He tries to connect the psychoanalysis, science of the mind (thoughts, feelings, memories, etc), with the anatomical structure of the brain. The notable case of Phineas Gage who had traumatic brain injury caused by a large tamping iron is classically illustrated for that context. Physically Gage was recovered but his mind was radically changed, so decidedly that his friends and acquaintances said that he was 'no longer Gage' (Harlow, 1868).

According to Solms, these clinical observations demonstrate that the brain and the personality are inextricable. They make it clear that the object of study in psychoanalysis is somehow intrinsically connected with the object of study of neuroscience.

Solms is a reminder to the psychoanalysis community that Freud conceded that the chart of the deeper strata of the mind would not be completed until neuroscience will develop a method which is capable of accommodating the complex, distributed and dynamic nature of the human mental process. Furthermore, Freud, in fact, called only for a period of disciplinary independence in which psychoanalysis may proceed according to its own requirements: "after we have completed our psychoanalytic work we shall have to find a point of contact with biology" (Freud, 1915e p. 175). According to Solms, time has arrived for the 'contact with biology' conceptualized into the realm of psychoanalysis.

The pivotal aim of Solms's work is to provide the foundation method by which psychoanalysis can rejoin with neuroscience in a way that is compatible with Freud's basic assumptions. In order to accomplish that, Solms relies on one of the major developments that has occurred since Freud's death in the branch of neuroscience, out of which psychoanalysis arose, that is the method developed by Alexander Romanovich Luria. This method enables us to identify the neurological organization of any mental function without contradicting the fundamental assumptions of psychoanalysis. Hence, a viable bridge is established between the concepts of psychology and those of anatomy and physiology and all the other branches of neurological science. Solms elaborates and formulates a new approach to investigate the deeper strata of the mind by implementing neuro-psychoanalysis thinking: "I am recommending that we chart the neurological organization of the deepest strata of the mind, using a psychoanalytic version of syndrome analysis, by studying the deep structure of the mental changes that can be discerned in neurological patients within a psychoanalytic relationship" (Solms, 1998).

Solms is also translating the four-volume Complete Neuroscientific Papers of Sigmund Freud, as well as completing the long-awaited revision to James Strachey's translation of the Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud.

Bibliography

  • Freud, S. (1915e). "The unconscious", S.E. 14:161. From Solms, M., Turnbull, 2002). The Brain and the Inner World: An Introduction to the Neuroscience of Subjective Experience. New York
  • Harlow, J. (1868). 'Recovery from the passage of an iron bar through the head'. Massachusetts Med. Soc. Publ., 2: 329-347.
  • Kaplan-Solms, K., Solms, M. (2000). Clinical Studies in Neuro-Psychoanalysis. London: Karnac Books.
  • Solms, M (1998). Preliminaries for an integration of psychoanalysis and neuroscience. Presented at a meeting of the Contemporary Freudian Group of the British Psycho-Analytical Society.
  • Solms, M., Turnbull, O. (2002). The Brain and the Inner World: An Introduction to the Neuroscience of Subjective Experience. New York

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