Academic journal article Indian Journal of Psychiatry

Rebuilding the Brain with Psychotherapy

Academic journal article Indian Journal of Psychiatry

Rebuilding the Brain with Psychotherapy

Article excerpt

Byline: Savita. Malhotra, Swapnajeet. Sahoo

Brain has been the most fascinating and mysterious organ of the human body. Researchers have tried to explore into each and every function of different parts of the human brain linking it up with various mental and neural processes, some of which are phylogenetically shared and many are unshared. It has been hypothesized that brain is built during development and can be rebuilt during psychotherapy. Recent research in neuroscience of socioemotional cognition, developmental neuroscience, coupled with advances in investigative techniques of brain functions has provided tremendous opportunities for the study of brain and the mind. In this article, in the initial part, we have tried to explain the developmental processes involved in building of the human brain and what changes occur when an individual develops a psychiatric disorder. Later on, we have tried to postulate from different researches available that how psychotherapy can bring about a change in the neural mechanisms of the brain producing long-lasting effects. Several changes in the neural architecture of the brain occur during the process of psychotherapy. Further, we would like to elaborate on the hypothesis based on available literature that if psychiatric disorders can debuild the brain, then psychotherapy can help in rebuilding it again.


Brain is the most complex and mysterious organ in the human body. Development of brain follows two interacting processes: (1) evolutionary influences carried through organizations and functioning of nervous system within a predetermined developmental timetable and (2) formation of neural architecture within the context of the environmental experience during evolution. There is tremendous increase in the size of neocortex in comparison to medulla size in Homo sapiens during evolution. Development of speech and language, self-awareness, and conscious thought represents an evolutionary leap in the development and potential of human brain. Mind comprises mental process that arises through the functioning brain. Thus, mind is a product of the working brain and all mental processes (such as memory, cognition, learning, emotions, behavior, love, and empathy) have a neural basis.

Historically, mental processes were studied by psychologists and brain and nervous system by neurologists. As psychotherapy tackles the mind and mental processes, it is prudent to believe that psychotherapy can influence neural architecture. Freud thought that talking cure could alter neural structures. Psychotherapy and neurosciences for almost one century developed as two independent parallel disciplines antithetical to one another. It is only recently that the two have started to converge, leading to emergence of a newer paradigm. Integration of psychotherapy and neuroscience has gained momentum only in the last two decades. Historically, neurologists concerned themselves with the study of the brain and psychologists were studying the mind and there was no meeting ground for the two. They used their own methods of study and a different language. Freud was a neurologist who wanted to understand the mind but could not find the principles or mechanisms or the methods to study mind-brain relationship. Hence, he changed the language and metaphor of his studies to psychodynamics and psychoanalysis.

Brain development, though under the influence of genetic programming through centuries of evolution, occurs as a result of environmental influences comprising interpersonal and social experiences and learning. Neural architecture is shaped and sculpted by encoding of the environmental experiences leading to the development of a unique human being, each one different from another in their personality and mental makeup.

The Triune Brain

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