Neuroanatomy of Social Behaviour: An Evolutionary and Psychoanalytic Perspective

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9781855758803: Neuroanatomy of Social Behaviour: An Evolutionary and Psychoanalytic Perspective

Understanding how the brain subserves, and has evolved for, seemingly complex social behavior requires an evolutionarily and psychoanalytically informed framework – a framework that sets itself apart from cognitivism and speculations about conscious agency or a "self" as an actor. Any position that does not fully discard the idea that conscious phenomena can cause behavior (or that we have free will), hinders advances toward an evolutionarily feasible theory of brain mechanisms of social behavior. Accordingly, a key concern of the book is to seek clarification of the relationship between consciousness, behavior, and brain. This theme, as well as themes concerned with the constituent elements of human social behavior and personality – such as aggression, avoidance, anxiety, and reward seeking – run through the book, being incorporated into the discussion of the various brain structures and regulatory mechanisms.

Psychoanalysis not only emphasizes the primacy of the unconscious in social behavior, it also allows us to relate all forms of social behavior, and its variations into the extremes of psychopathology, to the expression of a few behavior mechanisms that are deeply rooted in the evolution of defensive and reward-seeking behaviors of vertebrates. Advances in biological psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience, reviewed here, illustrate the functioning under “extreme conditions” of a system that balances and intertwines defensive, aggressive, and reward-seeking motivational processes – processes that lie hidden in the interpersonal and cultural fabric of the social world that surrounds us.

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About the Author:

Ralf-Peter Behrendt studied medicine and biophysics (medical cybernetics) in Moscow, Russia. He came to England in 1997, where he trained in psychiatry, pursuing special interests in psychoanalysis and neuropsychiatry. He now works as a consultant in old-age psychiatry. He has published several articles and book chapters in the field of psychopathology and neurobiology of mental illness, especially in the interface with philosophy. He is the author of Neuroanatomy of Social Behaviour: An Evolutionary and Psychoanalytic Perspective (Karnac, 2011).

Review:

“Behrendt has tackled a formidable challenge head-on here, namely the dream of finding a fully deterministic account of human social behavior. He has provided this, not in general terms, but at the detailed level of neural networks and neurotransmitter systems. His readers will be eternally grateful for the highly impressive compendium of relevant neuroscientific findings, integrated with psychoanalytic theory. This is a monumental, masterful achievement by an extremely able scientific mind.” (Mark Solms, Director of the Arnold Pfeffer Center for Neuro-Psychoanalysis)

“Behrendt’s impressive scholarship takes us through a vast neuroanatomically anchored description of animal actions that behavioral neuroscience has accumulated across the past half century of intensive investigations of animal and human brains and behaviors. This is not for the faint of heart. This encyclopaedic text demands much of readers, and offers them abundant scholarship that permits them to understand the reach and implications of a cross-species functional neuroscience for understandings those vast “dynamically unconscious” neural mechanisms that govern human and animal actions. There are vast implications here for understanding the human predicament, clinical disorders, and psychoanalytical approaches that seek to restore balance to troubled brains and minds.” (Jaak Panksepp, PhD, Baily Endowed Professor of Animal Well-Being Science)

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