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Vol. 1 No. 2 (2021): Subject, Otherness and Uncertainty

Neuro-biological basis of emotional development and change in adolescence

August 8, 2021


In the last decades, a great development in both neurophysiologic and neuropsychological areas have been observed that offered new possibilities to support the main principles of psychoanalytic theory.

Can psychoanalytic conceptions of the psychic apparatus remain consonant with what is currently documented to function in nature?

Can the psychoanalytic theoretical model contemplate psychic function and biological structure together?

The purpose of these notes is to briefly expose the recent advances in neuroscience regarding the adolescent mind and pursue the goal of interesting the reader in the possible "metaphorical" psychodynamic union of these biological facts.

In this perspective the present study was firstly aimed at reviewing the most relevant characteristics of the adolescent brain, clarifying the development of the cerebral structures connected to emotions and impulse control. A particular focus was offered to the role of mirror neurons in the development of empathic reactions and, thus, of inter-subjectivity. A second aim of the study was to clarify the role of neuronal plasticity in the evolution of adolescent brain and in the process of change. The interpersonal contact during the psychotherapeutic process was particularly examined as an instrument that facilitate personality changes, with a particular focus on patient-therapist moments of meetings that permit to modify the implicit relational knowing.