Correcting faulty predictions: Psychotherapy helps people approach the future

May 05, 2004

New York, NY- As part of the scientific program of the 2004 Annual Meeting of the American Psychiatric Association, APsaA member Regina Pally, M.D. of the Los Angeles Psychoanalytic Society and Institute will give a presentation on the regulatory role of consciousness in monitoring and correcting errors of prediction and the implications for psychotherapy. Dr. Pally is both a psychiatrist and a psychoanalyst.

This session, entitled "Unconscious Prediction, Conscious Monitoring and Therapeutic Change: Is There a Mind-Brain Barrier", will take place on Tuesday, May, 5, 2004 from 12:00- 1:30 P.M. in Room 1E16 on Level 1 of the Jacob Javits Center, 655 West 34th Street, New York.

The mind has its own way of predicting what's going to happen as a kind of background and unconscious activity. Dr. Pally's session will point out how we can bring consciousness to bear on those predictions - with the help of psychotherapy - to correct our predictive errors.

Although subjectively it seems to us as if we perceive events and respond to them after they happen, neuroscience data suggests that our perceptions and responses begin even before events actually occur. As a result of the evolutionary survival pressures of the avoidance of predators, as well as, competition for food and mates, the brain has evolved a number of mechanisms to enhance the speed and efficiency of responding to the environment.

One such mechanism is the ability to make predictions about what is most likely to occur next, based on the sensory context of what is occurring now and what has occurred in the past. These predictive mechanisms are designed to activate the perceptual and behavioral systems, so that they are ready 'ahead of time' and can more quickly react to events when they occur. For example, in the perceptual system, the sensory cortex is 'tuned in', so to speak, in such a way, so that neurons will be morel likely to detect the predicted sensory cues.

In the behavioral realm, a process known as conditioning, enables the brain to trigger adaptive behaviors to stimuli, which in and of themselves are neither beneficial or harmful, but which the individual has learned are predictive of the approach of harm or benefit. Thus the individual is already prepared with the appropriate response when the harm or benefit appears.

Consciousness plays a regulatory role, to monitor whether what was predicted actually occurred and to make corrections when necessary. These predictive mechanisms and the regulatory role of consciousness have a number of important implications for the understanding and psychotherapeutic treatment of patients who repeat maladaptive patterns of behavior.

Please note: Dr. Pally's presentation will also include a number of images, including one of the brain that clearly demonstrates the placebo effect. An example: the brain starts believing that less pain will be felt, and as a result, then shuts off its pain center.

Founded in 1911, APsaA is a professional organization of psychoanalysts throughout the United States. The Association is composed of Affiliate Societies and Training Institutes in many cities and has approximately 3,500 individual members. APsaA is a Regional Association of the International Psychoanalytical Association.

American Psychoanalytic Association

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