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Neurobiology and its Applications to Psychotherapy

Online module
  • This online resource provides a unique package of lectures and presentations by the speakers below, supported by notes, captions and diagrams
  • This content is available 24/7 for 1 year per subscription
  • All the materials have been commissioned by Confer and cannot be obtained elsewhere
  • Our own analysis of the subject is offered in the form of summaries covering history, epidemiology, aetiology, neuropsychology, diagnosis and treatment approaches
  • The literature has been studied in order to offer you links to reliably researched texts, papers and books
  • A networking discussion forum is included
  • A certificate of attendance may be applied for up to 21.5 hours CPD (pro rata on the basis of correct answers in multiple choice questionnaire assessing your knowledge of the module): £36
  • 30% off all related W. W. Norton books

Module speakers

Lucy Biven, Dr Mona DeKoven Fishbane, Professor Vittorio Gallese, Dr Jean Knox, Dr Ruth Lanius, Dr Terry Marks-Tarlow, Dr Iain McGilchrist, Dr Jaak Panksepp, Professor Stephen Porges, Dr Allan Schore, Dr Dan Siegel, Professor Mark Solms, Dr Alan Watkins, Dr Felicity de Zulueta.

About

This package of resources brings together a fresh collection of video and audio presentations to illuminate the relationship between neuroscience and psychotherapy. The interface between the two disciplines has aroused great recent interest and this collection of talks asks some of the most influential neuropsychologists and practitioners to explain the neuroscientific concepts that they consider the significant in developing the skills of psychotherapy or in understanding the mind. Read more >>


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Resources in this online module


Lucy Biven
Video Applying neuroscience to the psychotherapeutic treatment of depression and anxiety

In this presentation, Child and Adolescent Psychoanalyst Lucy Biven explains her fascination with neuroscience and the research findings she has found most useful in her therapy practice. She cites the work of Panksepp, LeDoux, Antonia Damasio and Gazzaniga, emphasising the finding that people make decisions on the basis of emotions that are beneath conscious awareness and which stem from lower areas of the brain and nervous system. These are automatic biological responses that we can effectively work with psychotherapeutically if recognised. She further elaborates Panksepp's 7 emotional systems (SEEKING, RAGE, FEAR, LUST, CARE, PANIC/GRIEF, and PLAY) and draws on findings that suggest how we can most effectively treat depression and anxiety by placing a neurobiological framework at the centre of assessment.

Video of lecture - 43 mins
The speaker Lucy Biven trained at the Anna Freud Centre in London, and has served as Head of the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy at the Leicestershire National Health Service in England. She is currently a reader for the Journal of Neuropsychoanalysis. More >>



Dr Mona DeKoven Fishbane
Video Interpersonal Neurobiology and Couple Therapy

In this presentation, Dr Mona Fishbane discusses ways to integrate the wisdom of interpersonal neurobiology in couple therapy. She explores the neurobiology of passionate love and the challenges of nurturing long-term love; the health consequences of happy and unhappy relationships; what makes for relationship satisfaction; the dynamics of our automatic, emotional brain; how to bring prefrontal thoughtfulness to couple interactions; the dynamics of couple reactivity; emotion and emotion regulation; the neurobiology of empathy. Mona offers interventions informed by neurobiology, focusing on emotion regulation and empathy. The goal of therapy is to help couples become more relationally empowered, becoming their best selves, and co-constructing the "we" of their relationship. Mona shares how she helps the couple "get meta" to their own dance, co-authoring their interactions and building an intentional relationship. She explores the neurobiology of habits and change, and ways to facilitate change in therapy. In contrast to the reactive stance of unhappy couples, Mona offers ways to facilitate a "proactive" approach to loving.

Video of lecture - 1 hr 8 mins
The speaker Mona Fishbane PhD is Director of Couple Therapy Training at the Chicago Center for Family Health and a clinical psychologist in private practice. She is a long-term member of the American Family Therapy Academy, where she has served on the Board; an AAMFT Approved Supervisor; and an advisory editor for the journal Family Process. More >>



Professor Vittorio Gallese
Video Empathic bodily selves in relation: from mirror neurons to embodied simulation

Vittorio Gallese explains how the discovery of a mirror mechanism reveals an embodied approach to understanding the other. He terms this Embodied Simulation (ES). ES provides a new empirically-based notion of inter-subjectivity viewed first and foremost as intercorporeity - the main source of knowledge we directly gather about others is embodied. By means of ES we do not just "see" an action, an emotion, or a sensation and then understand it through an inference by analogy. We map others' actions by re-using our own motor representations. ES provides an original and unitary account of basic aspects of intersubjectivity, demonstrating how deeply our making sense of others' living and acting bodies is rooted in the power of re-using our own motor, emotional and somatosensory resources.

Video of lecture - 43 mins



The minimal bodily self: behavioral and neuroscientific evidence

From a phenomenological perspective, three levels of selfhood have been identified. First, there is the implicit awareness that this is 'my' experience. Second, there is the more explicit awareness of self as an invariant subject of experience and action. Finally, there is the social or narrative self, which refers to personality, habits, style and other characteristics of an individual. The concept of minimal, pre-reflective, or core self is currently under debate. It is not clear which empirical features such a self is presumed to possess and which kind of experience occurs in shaping it. This lecture proposes that besides searching for the neural correlates of a pre-defined, explicit and reflective self-knowledge, empirical research should first investigate which kind of experience allows implicit, pre-reflective self-knowledge to emerge. Vittorio Gallese presents behavioural and neuroscientific evidence showing the crucial role of the motor system in enabling the distinction between our bodily self and the bodily self of others. The bearing of such implicit distinction on psychoanalysis and psychopathology is also discussed.

Video of lecture - 1 hr 9 mins
The speaker Vittorio Gallese, MD and neurologist, is Professor of Physiology at the Department of Neuroscience of the University of Parma, Italy. He is Coordinator of the PhD Program in Neuroscience. His research focuses on the cognitive role of the motor system and on an embodied account of social cognition. More >>



Dr Jean Knox
Video Embodied empathy, mirror neurons and unbearable states of mind

Dr Jean Knox suggests that mirror neuron research offers valuable scientific insights into the mind-body dichotomy. She proposes that it challenges the model that privileges mind and thought over bodily enactment as the essence of what makes us human. She suggests that intersubjectivity is increasingly recognised as the embodied relational matrix out of which each individual emerges. The mirror neuron mechanism automatically prompts the observer to resonate with the emotional state of another individual, with the observer copying the motor, autonomic and somatic responses. Dr Knox sees this is the basis for both empathy and emotional contagion, 'concordant countertransference' (Racker) and introjection. The therapist often has to relate to states of mind activated by mirror neurons that are unbearable. This may lead the therapist to retreat from embodied inter-subjectivity into defensive positions such as intellectually-based, theoretical stances to the detriment of the therapy, while an understanding of the mirror-neuron mechanism may help therapists to tolerate embodied emotional discomfort.

Video of lecture - 32 mins
The speaker Dr Jean Knox is a psychiatrist and Jungian analyst. She is a Training Analyst of the Society of Analytical Psychology, a Senior Member and Training Therapist of the British Association of Psychotherapists and Consultant Editor of the Journal of Analytical Psychology.
More >>



Dr Ruth Lanius
Audio recording Applying observations of PTSD to neuroscience research, with implications for psychotherapy

In this presentation, Ruth Lanius outlines an effective combination of therapies for trauma-related disorders that has been successfully piloted at the Traumatic Stress Service in the University of Western Ontario. The study is based on both clinical work and neuro-imaging observations of brain functioning in people with PTSD. The function and anatomy of the intrinsic brain networks (central executive, salience and default-modes) is explained with particular reference to the importance of connections and moving flexibly between these. These key-functions are often impaired in stress-related disorders, particularly to shift from active to resting brain-states. Dr Lanius explains how we can successfully reverse problems with connectivity and thus greatly increase the mental functioning of PTSD patients by offering EEG feedback combined with a range of psychotherapies including DBT, sensorimotor, exposure-based approaches, EMDR, narrative work and cognitive processing therapy.

Audio with captions and images - 35 mins
The speaker Ruth Lanius, MD, PhD, Professor of Psychiatry is the director of the posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) research unit at the University of Western Ontario. She established the Traumatic Stress Service and the Traumatic Stress Service Workplace Program, services that specialize in the treatment and research of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and related comorbid disorders. More >>



Dr Terry Marks-Tarlow
Video Clinical Intuition in Psychotherapy: The neurobiology of flashes, hunches and gut feelings

In this video presentation, Dr Terry Marks-Tarlow suggests that clinical intuition is central to deep, embodied change in psychotherapy. Interpersonal intuition is linked to implicit processes of learning, memory, and imagination. These originate subcortically, beneath conscious thought. Clinical intuition is also related to parental instincts as guided by emotional/motivational circuits found in all social mammals. Finally, a play model of growth and healing during psychotherapy is offered, which counterbalances the trauma perspective currently in vogue.

Video of lecture - 1 hr 25 mins
The speaker Terry Marks-Tarlow, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Santa Monica, California. She teaches affective neuroscience at the Reiss Davis Child Study Center, is a research associate at the Institute of Fractal Research, and sits on the advisory board of the Global Alliance for Transformational Entertainment. More >>



Dr Iain McGilchrist
Video The Divided Brain: the nature of our selves, our minds and our bodies - Part I

We now know that each hemisphere plays a role in everything the brain does. Iain McGilchrist suggests that there is a Darwinian advantage to this division, originating in the need to pay two quite different types of attention to the world simultaneously: one enabling effective manipulation of pieces within the environment, the other enabling us to be aware of the whole. In human consciousness, these two modes of attention give rise to two different versions of the world, with different qualities, as well as different sets of preoccupations and values. He believes that an understanding of the implications of this attentional divide may cast light on some important questions, such as the nature of our selves, our minds and bodies, and of the world that we are in danger of destroying. These understandings will be elucidated to set a framework for understanding some of the most important aspects of the psychotherapy relationship and our lives in general.

Video of lecture - 1 hr 3 mins



The Divided Brain: the nature of our selves, our minds and our bodies - Part II

Video of lecture - 42 mins



The Divided Brain: the nature of our selves, our minds and our bodies - Part III

An understanding of hemisphere differences casts light on the nature of language and our relationships. In this second presentation, Iain McGilchrist will explore how the purpose of language is far from straightforward and that each hemisphere has a different way of engaging with language, to different ends. These insights cast light on what empathy is and is not, the importance of boundaries, and the nature of our relationships with one another and the world. The relevance of this knowledge to the task of psychotherapy will be explored.

Video of lecture - 36 mins



The Divided Brain: the nature of our selves, our minds and our bodies - Part IV

Video of lecture - 46 mins
The speaker Dr Iain McGilchrist is a former Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, a Fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, and former Consultant Psychiatrist and Clinical Director at the Bethlem Royal & Maudsley Hospital, London. More >>



Dr Jaak Panksepp
Video The primary process level, emotional affects and the complex social brain

In this lecture for psychotherapists, Professor Jaak Panksepp provides a working understanding of how emotions are created in the brain and how this provides a new understanding of the foundations of consciousness. He focuses on the nature of basic emotional processes as revealed through the study of neuroscience. This provides an effective framework for a better understanding of how feelings of sadness/grief and playfulness/joy are created, and their impact on our understanding of the mind and its disorders. Panksepp proposes that the complex social brain can be categorised into 7 emotional systems (SEEKING, RAGE, FEAR, LUST, CARE, PANIC/GRIEF, and PLAY) that are essential for wellbeing and survival. He relates the functioning of these systems to the skills of psychotherapy, for example, in engaging the CARE system. He further emphasises the importance of connecting with affect before cognition in creating therapeutic change. Panksepp proposes that every emotional system can be changed at its core via our adaptive capacity for neuroplasticity.

Video of lecture - 37 mins



The Brain-Mind mechanisms of SEEKING: depression, aliveness, and the location of the core self with clinical implications

Panksepp continues to explain emotional primary processes as the (sub-cortical) origin of feelings. He suggests that psychotherapy can be more effective if drugs are used to dampen the effects of primary emotional systems, and discusses psychotropic treatments for depression. It is proposed that depression is a disorder of the SEEKING system, and by seeing it in this way we have the opportunity to create more effective treatments. Panksepp proposes that psychotherapy clients are often dealing with primitive emotions that have taken over the higher mind and that we therefore need to work in the domain of emotional primary processes. Pharmacological therapies focus on biological similarities; psychotherapeutic approaches focus on the unique experience that each patient brings. Panksepp is a passionate critic of "ruthless reductionism" and asserts that scientific facts are not useful unless combined with concepts. He emphasises the plasticity of the brain - a key concept for understanding psychotherapeutic change.

Video of lecture - 38 mins
The speaker Dr Jaak Panksepp is currently the Baily Endowed Professor of Animal Well-Being Science at Washington State University, and founder of the field of Affective Neuroscience. Along with many students and colleagues, he has published over 400 scientific articles, chapters and reviews devoted to elucidating the basic mechanisms of motivations and emotions as well as the fundamental nature of consciousness and self-representation in the brain. More >>



Professor Stephen Porges
Audio recording Neuroscience, the polyvagal theory and applications to psychotherapy

Here Steven Porges explains the human biological responses to stress through an elaboration of the primitive emotional response rooted in the functions of the vagal nerve. The branches of the vagal nerve serve different evolutionary stress responses in mammals: the more primitive branch produces immobilisation behaviours (e.g. freeze or feigning death), whereas the more evolved branch is linked to social engagement and self-soothing behaviours. These functions follow a hierarchical structure, where the most primitive systems are activated only when the more evolved structures fail to deal with threat. In this presentation, Dr Porges considers how we can learn to manage affective disorders and over-activation of evolutionary stress responses by engaging higher functions.

Audio with captions and images - 47 mins
The speaker Stephen Porges is a Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and the Director of the Brain-Body Center in the College of Medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago and holds appointments in the Departments of Psychology, BioEngineering, and Anatomy and Cell Biology. In 2012 Porges joined RTI International in North Carolina, while continuing to hold his professorship at Chicago. More >>



Dr Allan Schore
Video The Early Bonds of Mutual Love: a neuroscientific exploration

In this lecture, recorded in 2013, Allan Schore first discusses classical conceptions of mutual love by Darwin, Freud, Winnicott, Bowlby, Fromm, Stern, and Harlow. He frames an interpersonal neurobiological perspective of both low arousal "quiet" and high arousal "excited" mother-infant love, focusing on the role of right brain-to-right brain communications. This lecture integrates current neuroscience research with developmental psychodynamic models in order to propose that the earliest emergence of mutual love occurs at 2-3 months, and that the right amygdala acts as a deep unconscious system in mother-infant relationship.

Video of lecture - 1 hr



The Early Bonds of Mutual Love: a neuroscientific exploration PART 2

This lecture provides an overview of current neuroimaging research studies of parental, and specifically maternal love, which highlights the essential roles of the right amygdala, cingulate, and orbitofrontal cortex in both mother and infant. Schore describes the initial emergence of mutual love at 2-3 months, drawing on the work of Stern, Fogel, and Trevarthen. A detailed analysis of developmental psychological studies of facial expressions the loving mother directs towards her infant in this critical period is followed by an exposition of the neurobiological and neurophysiological mechanisms that underlie mother-infant mutual love.

Video of lecture - 1 hr 5 mins



The Early Bonds of Mutual Love: a neuroscientific exploration PART 3

In this session, Schore elaborates the role of the right amygdala, an essential structural system that is activated in all later adult forms of mutual love. The co-creation of mother-infant mutual love, a bond of "deep affection, strong emotional attachment" represents the expression of an instinctual evolutionary mechanism that is continually activated over the stages of human development. Offering a neurobiological update of Freud's topographic theory he suggests that the right amygdala, the "deep unconscious," is essential to all later forms of mutual love.

Video of lecture - 59 mins



The Early Bonds of Mutual Love: a neuroscientific exploration PART 4

Presenting current neuroimaging studies of adult romantic love, Schore here suggests that subcortical limbic-autonomic areas of the right brain, especially the right amygdala, generate the most intense nonverbal embodied expressions of the human heart.

Video of lecture - 55 mins
The speaker Dr Allan Schore is on the clinical faculty of the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, and at the UCLA Center for Culture, Brain, and Development. More >>



Dr Dan Siegel
Audio recording Interpersonal neurobiology as the basis for psychotherapy that promotes integration of the mind-body system with lasting neuroplasticity

Dr Daniel Siegel explains the concept of interpersonal neurobiology as a discipline which seeks to understand the mind through the consilience of knowledge from a range of scientific disciplines. Siegel explains the healthy mind as an integrated system which has adaptability and flexibility in responding to external stimuli. This, he proposes, is at the root of self-regulation. Dr Siegel suggests that all self-regulation emerges from integration, defined here as the linkage of differentiated parts. When this integration is impaired, chaos and rigidity (in the nervous system's response to external stimuli) lead to dysregulation and ultimately to psychopathology. He proposes that psychotherapists can become skilled in identifying the areas of chaos and rigidity in their patient's life, and in promoting self-regulation via interventions that specifically promote integration at psychological and neurological levels. Effective psychotherapy improves the integrative growth of fibres in the brain (long-term neuroplasticity).

Audio with captions and images - 23 mins
The speaker Dan Siegel is currently a clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine where he is also on the faculty of the Center for Culture, Brain, and Development and the Co-Director of the Mindful Awareness Research Center at UCLA. More >>



Professor Mark Solms
Audio recording What is the function of neuropsychoanalysis in the consulting room?

In this interview, Mark Solms elaborates his concept of neuropsychoanalysis as a systematic attempt to reconcile psychoanalysis and neuroscience by drawing one's understanding from both disciplines simultaneously. He places this discussion into an historical framework, considering, among other works, Freud's understandings of the human drives. Solms suggests that the subjective psychoanalytic method can be combined with the objective stance of the neuroscientific approach in order to provide us with a much more complete understanding of the mind. Rather than seeing the scientific and conceptual frameworks as dichotomous, he proposes that neuroscience gives us a series of methods whereby we can test psychoanalytic hypotheses. (Interviewer, Jane Ryan)

Audio with captions and images - 1 hr 6 mins
The speaker Mark Solms was educated at Pretoria Boys’ High School and the University of the Witwatersrand. He undertook postdoctoral studies at St Bartholomew’s, the Royal London School of Medicine and the Institute of Psychoanalysis, London. More >>



Dr Alan Watkins
Audio recording Giving people the ability to control their emotional psychophysiology

In this brief video, Alan Watkins outlines the skill of affect regulation via conscious breathing techniques which impact on the feedback loop between breath, heart rate variability and emotional experience. He proposes that it is possible to master one's emotions in this way, even if one has experienced considerable trauma. Watkins draws on an integrated theory of the mind-body, demonstrating how some simple neurobiological knowledge can be applied to enhance the emotional well-being of our patients/clients and ourselves as therapists.

Audio with captions and images - 11 mins
The speaker Alan Watkins is recognised as an international expert on leadership and human performance. He has a broad mix of commercial, academic, scientific and technological abilities. More >>


Dr Felicity de Zulueta
Video Understanding PTSD within a neurobiological framework

In this lecture, Felicity de Zulueta focuses on the psychobiology of post-traumatic stress disorders. She suggests how these scientific insights can be applied to the best clinical technique for helping patients suffering from PTSD or dissociative disorders.

Video of lecture with notes and diagrams - 49 mins
The speaker Dr Felicity de Zulueta is an Emeritus Consultant Psychiatrist in Psychotherapy at the South London and Maudsley NHS Trust and an Honorary Senior Lecturer in Traumatic Studies at Kings College London. More >>



Fees

  • Self-funded: £200
  • Organisationally-funded: £240
  • Institutional account (4 or more): £100 per user
  • Teaching licence (10 or more): £65 per student
  • Test and Certificate of Attendance: £36
Scientific Overview

From Descartes to Siegel – an historical timeline showing publications impacting
on the development of psychobiology >>

This module includes:

  • 15 hours of videoed lectures
  • Supporting notes, slides or references
  • 3 hours of audio recordings with captions, diagrams or images
  • Bibliography
  • Links to selected papers and books (due shortly)
  • Discussion forum
  • A certificate of attendance may be applied for (21.5 hours CPD) on the basis of passing a multiple choice questionnaire assessing your knowledge of the module: £36

Module fact sheets

The following brief papers provide a summary of the main issues in the field of Neurobiology and its Applications to Psychotherapy
  • Scientific method and neurobiology
  • Some Historical Origins of Neurobiology
  • Neuroplasticity
  • Controversy: the mind-body divide
  • The sources of neuroscientific knowledge
  • The neurobiological basis of human relationships
  • Controversies: drugs versus talking therapies
  • Controversies: Genetic and environmental influences
  • The neurobiological contribution to psychotherapy
  • Some basics of human biology
  • Neuroanatomical vocabulary and concepts
  • Study tips
BACP CPD
LEARNING OBJECTIVES >>
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