Professor Mark Solms

Recent research into the brain mechanisms of emotion has identified the primitive ‘natural kinds’ of mammalian emotion. This research reveals some surprising findings about the emotional circuitry of the human brain, which radically change our classifications of the basic emotions, and which have substantial implications for our understanding of psychopathology. This talk will summarise the relevant findings and will discuss the clinical implications, in relation to, for example, addiction, mood disorders, anxiety disorders and thought disorders, and more generally for theories of human sexuality and aggression.

Video with captions and slides – 1 hr 13 mins

Brain mechanisms of emotional consciousness: implications for clinical technique
Most forms of psychoanalytical psychotherapy conceptualise therapeutic change as a process whereby the unconscious parts of the mind are rendered conscious. Classically this involves a clinical technique which endeavours to attach words to preverbal and nonverbal mental processes. This is the essence of the ‘talking cure’. In this presentation, new findings regarding the brain mechanisms of consciousness will be reported which require us to turn the classical conceptualisation of talking therapy on its head. The parts of the brain that generate ‘instinctual’ ways of thinking and behaving are the same parts of the brain that generate all consciousness. The parts of the brain that are associated with verbal cognition, by contrast, are intrinsically unconscious and are only capable of generating conscious thinking to the extent that they are activated by the more primitive, instinctual-emotional parts of the brain. Some implications of these findings for psychotherapeutic technique will be discussed.

Video with captions and slides – 51 mins

About 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.