Doctoral and postdoctoral research themes

My field of research is ‘Lacanian neuropsychanalysis’: I rely on Freudian metapsychology (and particularly on the Project for a Scientific Psychology, 1895), the way in which Jacques Lacan has re-read it precisely and critically, its interface with cognitive neurosciences and psycho- and neurolinguistics, and finally on a Kantian transcendental logic. This choice of a crossed psychoanalysis / cognitive neuroscience approach through a theoretical interface framework (Des fantômes dans la voix, 2007) and through a shared methodology (priming, evoked potentials) brings me to an epistemological reflection on the nature of the mental and the logics that distinguish mind and body (in particular, a historical logic versus a cyclical logic).

Concretely, experimental research is currently organized as follows:

(1) Primary and secondary processes, repression and signifier

  • To think or not to think: Using the Think-NoThink protocol of Anderson and Green (2001) we try to show the difficulty of inhibiting linguistic associations as a function of personality factors (i.e., of mental structure). We believe that the difficulty of inhibiting phonological ambiguity could be indicative of different mental structures.

We are particularly attentive to an ERP that could reveal this difficulty in dealing with phonological ambiguity, the N320, the Phonological Mismatch Negativity (see e.g., Bazan et al., 2019). We also believe that the efforts at non-processing of phonological ambiguity will show through alpha synchronization (see also Bazan, 2017; Shevrin et al., 2013).

Furthermore, a distinction has to be made between two different defense logics: a more fundamental movement, which defends against the stimulus without its precise identification and which is thought to be the effect of the synchronisation of alpha waves. Research here involves ERP measurements (Bazan, 2017). Second, there is secondary repression, which needs precise and accurate identification of the stimulus and which is thought to be the effect of sensorimotor inhibition (Bazan, 2012). Research could further be developed with rebound paradigms, e.g. Wegner et al. (2004). The specificity of the lab is to measure rebound both on the level of semantics and on the level of the signifier (phoneme groups).

(2) Psychosis, puns and metaphors

  • Puns: Our results show that the general population solves word games unwittingly. In psychosis there would be a greater insight that the stimulus material forms a pun.
  • New Metaphors: Our preliminary results suggest that especially in a psychotic (non-clinical) structure, solving new metaphors is difficult.

In the mental health domain, diagnosis is done either on a phenomenological basis (e.g. DSM), in which case diagnosis does not seem to catch the constitutive dynamics of the subject, or by single case analysis (‘logique du cas’), in which case diagnosis is more difficult to share in a larger scientific dialogue. Another approach to mental diagnosis is proposed, in which a structural position in language is probed: this position in language is thought to be either on the primary process mode, or on the secondary process mode and/or with a high level of dissociation or integration between both modes and is dynamically sensitive to anxiety and defenses. Our ‘linguistic tool box’ for this type of diagnostic approach includes Word Lists, Punss, New Metaphors and TongTwister and a validated non-linguistic method, the GeoCat (see further). Further developments may include adapting existing methods such as Hayling and Jacobi.

(3) Sexuality and repetition compulsion

  • Repetition compulsion and trauma: This is a line of research initiated with the thesis of Prof. Sandrine Detandt (ULB; Observatoire du SIDA et des sexualités) and continued in collaboration with her. We have defended that there is a parallel between the psychoanalytic concepts of jouissanceand repetition compulsion and the activation of the mesolimbic dopaminergic circuits (NAS-DA) and their incentive sensitization (Bazan & Detandt, 2013, 2015; Bazan et al., 2016). Combining Go/NoGo paradigms, in which response bias for specific stimuli are measured, followed by free association on the same stimuli, assessed by an «Affect-Pulsion» questionnaire (Detandt, 2016) given to naive judges (in order to avoid circularity, Grunbaum, 1984), we assess a coherence between what drives behavior and how this pervades into speech, i.e. we index the ‘drive intensity’ mobilized by these stimuli. This ‘drive intensity’ can, for example, be indicative of a traumatic and / or addictive object and / or of a repetition compulsion (see also Detandt, 2016). The idea is that it is the drive intensity that is related to possible psychopathological problems and not the valence, positive or negative, of the stimuli. Thus, what drives behavior, and its repetition, is more fundamentally dependent on excitement, independent of valence – which is in agreement with clinical observation. We are currently interested in populations that have or claim a specific relationship with regard to the sexual domain, either an identity relationship – from asexual to hypersexual, for example – or a professional relationship – sex workers, for example.

(4) Primary and secondary processes by the GeoCat instrument

Linda Brakel of the University of Michigan and her colleagues (Brakel et al., 2000) have developed a very easy-to-use, non-linguistic geometric figure instrument, the GeoCat, which enables rapid ‘measurement’ of a form of primary and secondary processes. With my team, I redesigned and continued to validate the instrument, which is currently in version 1.3. This instrument is available on request and comes with a user manual (

  • GeoCat and development: We finalize this study which shows the emergence as early as two and a half years of primary ‘attributional’ processes and shortly after that of secondary ‘configurational’ processes. There is a fairly dramatic shift from primary to secondary processes between 5 and 6 years old. After this age there is relative stability between secondary (2/3) and primary (1/3) processes during the rest of life (see also Brakel et al., 2002).
  • GeoCat and autism: With the colleague, Prof. Lisa Ouss from Necker Hospital in Paris, we collect data by GeoCat in populations of children and adolescents diagnosed with ‘Autism Spectrum Disorder’ as well as children and adolescents diagnosed with ‘Neurodevelopmental Disorder’. This research is open to other potentially interested colleagues.
  • GeoCat and psychic transparency: We have shown, among others with Julie Antoine-Moussiaux, that there is a resurgence of primary processes of the ‘geometric-attributional’ type in pregnant women in the second half of their pregnancy (Bazan et al., 2019a), thus supporting Monique Bydlowski’s concept of ‘psychic transparency’ (e.g. Bydlowski, 1991). This research is not continued at this time. However, it would be very interesting to take up this research from a longitudinal angle, to verify whether the resurgence of primary processes during pregnancy turns out to be protective or predictive of mental problems in future mothers after the birth of the child.

Finally, life and events in Belgium led me to engage on a few ethical issues, in particular euthanasia for reasons of mental suffering, which is possible in Belgium. As this list shows, I did not have this theme in my sights a priori, but since some events in 2015 in Belgium, I felt morally obliged to protest by arguing mainly that the law stipulates that the situation must be judged ‘medically desperate’ to decriminalize euthanasia and that it is not, in my opinion, possible to medically objectify the incurability of mental suffering (see e.g., .

Anderson, M. & Green, C. (2001). Suppressing unwanted memories by executive control. Nature, 410, 366-369.
Bazan, A. (2007). Des fantômes dans la voix : une hypothèse neuropsychanalytique sur la structure de l’inconscient. Montréal: Liber.
Bazan A. (2017). Alpha synchronization as a brain model for unconscious defense: An overview of the work of Howard Shevrin and his team. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 98(5), 1443-1473.
Bazan, A. (2012). From sensorimotor inhibition to Freudian repression: insights from psychosis applied to neurosis. Frontiers in Psychology, 3,452.
Bazan, A. (2017). Alpha synchronization as a brain model for unconscious defense: an overview of the work of Howard Shevrin and team. The International Journal of Psychoanalysis.
Bazan, A. & Detandt, S. (2013). On the physiology of jouissance: interpreting the mesolimbic dopaminergic reward functions from a psychoanalytic perspective. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 7, 709, 7-13.
Bazan, A. & Detandt, S. (2015). Trauma and jouissance, a neuropsychoanalytic perspective. Journal of the Centre for Freudian Analysis and Research (JCFAR), 26, 99-127.
Bazan, A., Detandt, S., & Askari, S. (2016). Proposition pour une physiologie de la jouissance. Evolution Psychiatrique, 81, 777-787.
Bazan, A., Jorge Mendes, S., Antoine-Moussiaux, J., & Prys, D. (2019a). Empirical evidence for psychic transparency in pregnancy. Psychoanalytic Psychology, 36(3), 239-248.
Bazan, A., Kushwaha, R., Winer, E. S., Snodgrass, J. M., Brakel, L. A., & Shevrin, H. (2019b). Phonological ambiguity detection outside of consciousness and its defensive avoidance. Frontiers in human neuroscience, 13, 77.
Detandt, S. (2016). De la « jouissance » au « wanting » dans une population de fumeurs : étude empirique sur les tenants des assuétudes à l’interface des approches clinique et expérimentales. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Université Libre de Bruxelles.
Brakel, L., Kleinsorge, M., Snodgrass, & Shevrin, H. (2000). The primary process and the unconscious: Experimental evidence supporting two psychoanalytic presuppositions. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 81, 553-569.
Brakel, L.A.W., Shevrin, H. & Villa, K.K. (2002). The priority of primary processcategorizing: experimental evidence supporting a psychoanalytic hypothesis. Developmental. The Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 50(2), 483-505.
Bydlowski, M. (1991). La transparence psychique de la grossesse. Études Freudiennes, 32, 78–153.
Freud, S. (1895/1956). Esquisse d’une psychologie scientifique. Dans La naissance de la psychanalyse. Paris : Presses Universitaires de France, 309-404.
Grunbaum, A. (1984). The foundations of psychoanalysis: A philosophical critique. Berkeley, CA: California UP.
Shevrin, H., Snodgrass, M., Brakel, L.A., Kushwaha, R., Kalaida, N.L., & Bazan, A. (2013). Subliminal unconscious conflict alpha power inhibits supraliminal conscious symptom experience. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 7, 544. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2013.00544.
Wegner D.M., Wenzlaff R.M., Kozak M. (2004). Dream rebound the return of suppressed thoughts in dreams. Psychological Science, 15, 232–236.


Please check this webpage:
and select ‘Faculty of Psychology and Education/Faculté des Sciences Psychologiques et de l’Education’.

A neuropsychoanalytic account of jouissance (Lacan) and repetition compulsion (Freud): what drives behavior is excitement before valence

A neuropsychoanalytic model of Freudian defenses: alpha synchronisation for primary repression and sensorimotor inhibition for secondary repression