The fMRI correlates of psychological "complexes": Exploring the neurobiology of internal conflict

Petchkovsky, Leon, Petchkovsky, Michael, Morris, Philip, Dickson, Paul, Montgomery, Danielle, Dwyer, Jonathan, Burnett, Patrick and Strudwick, Mark (2011) The fMRI correlates of psychological "complexes": Exploring the neurobiology of internal conflict. Journal of US-China Medical Science, 8 11: 647-660.

Author Petchkovsky, Leon
Petchkovsky, Michael
Morris, Philip
Dickson, Paul
Montgomery, Danielle
Dwyer, Jonathan
Burnett, Patrick
Strudwick, Mark
Title The fMRI correlates of psychological "complexes": Exploring the neurobiology of internal conflict
Journal name Journal of US-China Medical Science   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1548-6648
Publication date 2011-11-01
Sub-type Article (original research)
Volume 8
Issue 11
Start page 647
End page 660
Total pages 14
Place of publication Libertyville, IL, United States
Publisher David Publishing
Collection year 2013
Language eng
Formatted abstract
Objective: Internal conflict is a common feature of subjective life, but its neurobiology is poorly understood. A century ago, Jung discovered that subjects, asked to respond quickly to stimulus words presented serially from a standard list, would occasionally produce unusual associations with emotional and physiologically disturbances, at odds with their usual conscious stance. From such responses, “complexes” could be inferred. Complexes were thought to feature in psychosis, neurosis, deviant behaviors like criminality and the psychopathology of everyday life. Method: Jung’s 100 Word Association Test adapted for fMRI conditions was performed in a 4 Tesla fMRI Unit with 12 normal subjects, yielding 14 scans. Words were presented at 20 second intervals. Two lots of 339 volumes (36 slices per volume) were acquired per subject. A “generic complex response” was mapped by contrasting all complexed responses against neutral. Results: SPM5 analysis of complexed responses revealed a pattern of bilaterally symmetrical activity, well above the FWE/FDR threshold (Z scores ranging from 4.77 to 5.58), in anterior insulae, medial prefrontal (SMA and middle cingulate), lateral prefrontal (Broca’s), and mid -temporal regions. Conclusions: Internal conflict has a biological substrate. The pattern involves internal negotiations at three levels; cortico-limbic, antero-posterior (prefrontal versus post-frontal), and interhemispheric. Both insulae are involved. This pattern is similar to the “resonance circuitry” described by Siegel and colleagues as central to empathy and our sense of self and other.
Keyword Psychological complexes
Resonance circuit
Carl Jung
Internal conflict
Dan Siegel
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: School of Medicine Publications
Centre for Advanced Imaging Publications
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Created: Thu, 16 Aug 2012, 19:16:25 EST by Sandrine Ducrot on behalf of Centre for Advanced Imaging