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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

As a Professor in Clinical Psychology and Psychopathology (Ph.D. Biology, Ph.D. Psychology), Professor Bazan runs a small group at the ULB that conducts empirical research on psychoanalytic metapsychology using cognitive, linguistic and (some) neuroscientific methods.  The broad theme is « Lacanian Neuropsychoanalysis ». By way of illustration, empirical research is conducted in three large domains: (1) primary and secondary process mentation, (2) repression and inhibition, (3) enjoyment and repetition.

(1) Primary and secondary process mentation: 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 ‘measured’: 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. Her group are developing a ‘linguistic tool box’ for this type of diagnostic approach (including WordLists, WordPlays, New Metaphors and adapting existing methods such as Hayling, Jacobi and TongTwister). Additionally a validated non-linguistic method, the GeoCat, is included. Research here may involve assessment of the language-position characteristics in different clinical populations and situations.

(2) Repression and inhibition: A distinction has to be made between two different defense logics. First, there is 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 here is mostly done 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).

(3) Enjoyment and repetition: In the past, her group has extensively defended the proposition that there is some parallel between the psychoanalytic concepts of jouissance and 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), her group empirically assess a coherence between what drives behavior and how this pervades into speech. This excitement, which can be assessed both through behavior and speech, appears to depend first and foremost on the arousal level of stimuli, and no so much on their valence. Thus what drives behavior, and its repetition, is more fundamentally dependent on excitement, independent of valence – which is in agreement with clinical observation.

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.
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.
Grunbaum, A. (1984). The foundations of psychoanalysis: A philosophical critique. Berkeley, CA: California UP.
Wegner D.M., Wenzlaff R.M., Kozak M. (2004). Dream rebound the return of suppressed thoughts in dreams. Psychological Science, 15: 232–236.


Aix-Marseille Université
National and Kapodistrian University of Athens
Université libre de Bruxelles
University of Bucharest
Universidad Autonoma de Madrid
Sapienza Università di Roma
Stockholms Universitet
Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen

Ariane Bazan on ResearchGate

Ariane Bazan on Academia 

Ariane Bazan on Frontiers 

American Psychoanalytic Association funds our research project on primary processes!

News: APsaA Funds Four New Research Projects

New York – November 22, 2016 – Four new research projects were selected by the American Psychoanalytic Association’s (APsaA) Fund for Psychoanalytic Research program, part of the Association’s ongoing commitment to supporting psychoanalytic research and encouraging future psychoanalytic investigators. A total of $75,000 was awarded to the grantees.

Ariane Bazan, Ph.D. (Université Libre de Bruxelles, ULB) – Research Grant – On Primary and Secondary process. Freudian Repression at the Interface of Psychoanalysis and a Cognitive Approach – $20,000


The full name of this award-winning project is

Secondary process mentation as a defense against ambiguity: an empirical study in clinical populations with exacerbated control using pictorial and linguistic stimuli.



…after the APsA: The International Psychoanalytic Association funds our research project on primary processes!

… and I do like that they call me Doctor Doctor!



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