Mourning and Melancholia Revisited: Correspondences Between Principles of Freudian Metapsychology and Empirical Findings in Neuropsychiatry

Ann Gen Psychiatry. 2008 Jul 24;7:9. doi: 10.1186/1744-859X-7-9.


Freud began his career as a neurologist studying the anatomy and physiology of the nervous system, but it was his later work in psychology that would secure his place in history. This paper draws attention to consistencies between physiological processes identified by modern clinical research and psychological processes described by Freud, with a special emphasis on his famous paper on depression entitled 'Mourning and melancholia'. Inspired by neuroimaging findings in depression and deep brain stimulation for treatment resistant depression, some preliminary physiological correlates are proposed for a number of key psychoanalytic processes. Specifically, activation of the subgenual cingulate is discussed in relation to repression and the default mode network is discussed in relation to the ego. If these correlates are found to be reliable, this may have implications for the manner in which psychoanalysis is viewed by the wider psychological and psychiatric communities.