Psychotherapy Research in the Context of Neuroscience

  • Heinz BoekerEmail author
  • Georg Northoff


The chapter focuses on the essentials of psychotherapy research in the context of neuroscience and the question of how the mental correlates of psychotherapy, especially of psychodynamic psychotherapy, can be investigated.

The psychoanalytic approach aims at enabling the patient to “remember, repeat and work through” concerning the explicit memory. Moreover, the relation between analyst and patient establishes a new affective configuration which enables a reconstruction of the implicit memory. The resulting psychic changes correspond to neuronal changes.

The variables that need to be controlled and measured in individualized neuroimaging will be discussed.

Two main methodological problems can be distinguished: The design problem addresses the issue of how to account for functionally related variables in an experimentally independent way. The translation problem raises the question of how to bridge the gaps between different levels of the concepts presupposed in individualized neuroimaging (e.g. the personal level of the therapist and the client, the neuronal level of the brain).

An overview of the individualized paradigms which have been used until now will be given, including the Operationalized Psychodynamic Diagnostics (OPD-2) and the Maladaptive Interpersonal Patterns Q-Sort (MIPQS). The development of a new paradigm which will be used in fMRS experiments, the “Interpersonal Relations Picture Set” (IRPS), will be described. Further perspectives and limitations of this new approach concerning the design and the translation problem will be discussed.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry, Psychotherapy, and PsychosomaticsPsychiatric University Hospital Zurich, University of ZurichZurichSwitzerland
  2. 2.Mind, Brain Imaging, and Neuroethics, Institute of Mental Health ResearchUniversity of OttawaOttawaCanada

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