The homeostatic psyche: Freudian theory and somatic markers

Mathieu Arminjon, François Ansermet*, Pierre Magistretti

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


After years of reciprocal lack of interest, if not opposition, neuroscience and psychoanalysis are poised for a renewed dialogue. This article discusses some aspects of the Freudian metapsychology and its link with specific biological mechanisms. It highlights in particular how the physiological concept of homeostasis resonates with certain fundamental concepts of psychoanalysis. Similarly, the authors underline how the Freud and Damasio theories of brain functioning display remarkable complementarities, especially through their common reference to Meynert and James. Furthermore, the Freudian theory of drives is discussed in the light of current neurobiological evidences of neural plasticity and trace formation and of their relationships with the processes of homeostasis. The ensuing dynamics between traces and homeostasis opens novel avenues to consider inner life in reference to the establishment of fantasies unique to each subject. The lack of determinism, within a context of determinism, implied by plasticity and reconsolidation participates in the emergence of singularity, the creation of uniqueness and the unpredictable future of the subject. There is a gap in determinism inherent to biology itself. Uniqueness and discontinuity: this should today be the focus of the questions raised in neuroscience. Neuroscience needs to establish the new bases of a "discontinuous" biology. Psychoanalysis can offer to neuroscience the possibility to think of discontinuity. Neuroscience and psychoanalysis meet thus in an unexpected way with regard to discontinuity and this is a new point of convergence between them.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)272-278
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Physiology Paris
Issue number5-6
StatePublished - Nov 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Discontinuity
  • Homeostasis
  • Neuronal plasticity
  • Psychoanalysis
  • Somatic markers
  • Traces

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Physiology (medical)


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