Unlocking the Neurobiology of Freud’s Psychoanalytic Theories – Neuropsychoanalysis | Part 1 of 4

Posted on:October 1, 2023
Last Updated: November 24, 2023
Time to read: 35–42 minutes

This article explores the connections between Freud’s core psychoanalytical principles and their neurobiological counterparts.

We suggest that the mind-brain-body dichotomy is purely theoretical and that the two core entities cannot function separately from one another.

Many contemporary explorations aim to uncover potential neurobiological underpinnings within various psychoanalytic frameworks. 

They share similar formulations that differ only in semantic terms. This does not suggest that individual experiences are localised to specific brain areas or networks but that psychotherapy as a discipline has significant neurobiological underpinnings.

This 4-part series delves into the details of neuropsychoanalysis and concludes that mental health clinicians should consider neurobiological factors when formulating care and treatment, irrespective of whether they offer medication or not.

As we contemplate the shape of psychiatry in the 21st century, one of the greatest risks we face is reductionism. Specifically, psychiatry is at risk of becoming a house divided against itself, with psychosocial specialists in one camp and neuroscientists in another. While we know that mind and brain are inseparable, our literature and our practice do not always reflect that.

Related to this unfortunate tendency toward dichotomisation is a widely held but poorly supported view of treatment: namely, that psychotherapy is a treatment for `psychologically based’ disorders, while `biologically based’ disorders should be treated with medication. This view is related to a Cartesian dualism that splits people into a mind and a brain. While the two constructs represent domains that have their own languages and can be separated for purposes of discussion, they are always integrated. [Gabbard, 2000]


The Interpretation of Dreams

Freud S. (1900). The Interpretation of Dreams. Standard Edition, 4-5. London Hogarth Press, 1953. 

Perception Theory

Barry A. (2004) Perception Theory,in Handbook of Visual Communication ed. Smith, K, Moriarty, S, Baratsis, G, Kenney, K. Abingdon: Routledge Handbooks Online. 


APA. Harari, Y. N. (2015). Sapiens. Harper