A century ago Sigmund Freud, in the spirit of scientific inquiry, and after years of research as a neurologist, published The Interpretation of Dreams. The book began his exploration of the mind and his development of psychoanalysis.
The book's publication also marked the real beginnings of scientific research into the mind and to the development of truer understanding of mental health problems.
Because of its influence on scientific thinking, The Interpretation of Dreams has led to everything from drug treatments for depression and schizophrenia, to studies of neural networks with PET scans, and to further understanding of learning, memory, and mental development.
Before Freud, before The Interpretation of Dreams, the brain was studied as an object. After he published Dreams, scientists began to look at the connection between the nebulous and hard-to-define mind and the physical, gray brain. What they discovered, and what they are still discovering, is the incredible complexity of both brain and mind.
The line where the brain and behavior meet is the focus of much of modern neuroscience. And dreams are proving to be a foundation for much of that research. After a brief period when dreams were thought to be little more than mental fireworks, scientists are finding that they provide many insights into the mind's workings. Freud called dreams the "royal road to the unconscious." Modern scientists, using technology such as PET scans are discovering that Freud's "road" is indeed "royal."
While current work in neuroscience is leading to discoveries in brain function, past work has led to better understanding of the brain's chemistry. This work, which was presaged by Freud when he tried to integrate his observation of dreaming with the biology of his time, has led to breakthroughs in drug therapies for many mental illnesses including manic-depressive illness, depression, schizophrenia, and psychosis.
Perhaps the most profound effect of the Interpretation of Dreams is that it is the foundation of all modern psychotherapies. In his effort to understand the meaning of dreams Freud developed psychoanalysis, which has led to myriad other kinds of therapies.
Without the Interpretation of Dreams neuroscience might exist only as a mapping project. Psychology might still be the study ill humors and their effects on the brain. Without The Interpretation of Dreams modern, scientific study might not be finding the insights into the mind that are saving millions from the horrors of mental illness. The revolution Freud began one hundred years ago is still continuing.
For more information on The Interpretation of Dreams; the 100th Year Anniversary Exhibit, "Dreams 1900-2000" in New York; psychoanalysis and current neuroscientific research that stems from the Interpretation of Dreams; conferences that are being held in conjunctions with the anniversary; or a press kit on the anniversary please call 312-782-6960.
The above story is based on materials provided by American Psychoanalytic Association. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.
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