Free-energy and Freud: An update

Robin L. Carhart-Harris and Karl J. Friston

in From the Couch to the Lab

Published on behalf of Oxford University Press

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780199600526
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191754753 | DOI:
Free-energy and Freud: An update

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This chapter explores the notion that Freudian constructs may have neurobiological substrates. Specifically, we propose that Freud's descriptions of the primary and secondary processes are consistent with self-organized activity in hierarchical cortical systems and that his descriptions of the ego are consistent with the functions of the default-mode and its exchanges with subordinate brain systems. This neurobiological account rests on a view of the brain as a hierarchical inference machine. In this view, large-scale intrinsic networks occupy supraordinate levels of hierarchically organized brain that tries to optimize its representation of its sensorium. This optimization has been formulated as minimizing a free-energy; a process that is formally similar to the treatment of energy in Freudian formulations. We substantiate this synthesis by showing that Freud's descriptions of the primary process are consistent with the phenomenology and neurophysiology of certain altered states of consciousness.

Chapter.  6239 words. 

Subjects: Psychiatry

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