Psychoanalysis Unit


The Future of Neuroscience, Attachment and Mentalizing: from research to clinical practice

18 May 2019–19 May 2019, 10:00 am–5:00 pm


Event Information

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Psychoanalysis Unit


Gower Street
United Kingdom

This conference will be one of the first conferences to explicitly focus on the application of neuroscience and neurobiology to clinical issues. Leading speakers will discuss recently emerging findings in affective neuroscience with immediate clinical relevance. They will focus on incorporating neurobiological findings with the aim to provide what every clinician should know from a neuroscience point of view. Clinical themes covered will include children and adults with a trauma history, autism, and early preventative interventions for at-risk children and parents.

Another aim of the conference is further exchange between practitioners and leading experts in affective neuroscience. Clinical workshops on Sunday will aim to provide practitioners with the possibility to discuss the influence of the most recent emerging findings on clinical practice, and offer the opportunity for in-depth interaction with key practitioners in the field.

Ticket Prices

The ticket prices are as follows:
Standard: £170
Concession: £135 (Students, Trainees, UCL Staff)

Keynote speakers and workshop leaders to include:

Ruth Feldman | Center for Developmental Social Neuroscience, IDC, Herzlia, Israel
How do Relationships Make Brain?

Katerina Fotopoulou | University College London, UK
Embodied Mentalisation in Anorexia Nervosa: Insights from Psychodynamic Neuroscience

Bart Boets | KU Leuven, Belgium
Objectively quantifying socio-communicative sensitivity by innovative neuroimaging approaches: Applications in autism and infant research

Pascal Vrtička | Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Leipzig, Germany
The Social Neuroscience of Attachment: State-of-the-Art and Future Directions

Anna Buchheim | Universität Innsbruck, Austria
Neuroscience of Human Attachment: what we now know

Peter Fonagy | University College London and Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families, UK and Simon Baron-Cohen | University of Cambridge, UK  
In conversation on “Where we are now: a neuroscience informed social-communicative approach to change in psychotherapy” 

Pasco Fearon | University College London, and The Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families, UK
Workshop on strategies for promoting secure attachment and early child development through mentalizing and sensitive care

Patrick Luyten | KU Leuven, Belgium
Workshop on working with somatoform patients: an integrative, neuroscience informed perspective          

Martin Debbané | Université de Genève, Switzerland and Nader Perroud |Université de Genève, Switzerland
Workshop on attention disorders and MBT: from the scanner to the consultation room     

Svenja Taubner | Heidelberg University, Germany
Workshop on Mentalization-based treatment for aggressive behavior in adolescence

Abstracts for Parallel Workshops Session 1

Strategies for promoting secure attachment and early child development through mentalizing and sensitive care

Pasco Fearon (University College London, and The Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families, UK)

Workshop Abstract: In this session, Pasco Fearon will summarize recent data on three key topics: 1) the relationship between attachment and child development outcomes, 2) the intergenerational transmission of patterns of attachment, and 3) the efficacy of psychosocial interventions to improve rates of secure and insecure attachment. Following this, he will outline the strategies and intervention techniques used in effective attachment interventions.

Biography: Pasco Fearon is a leading expert in early childhood development, whose work combines both environmental and biological/genetic methodologies to understand longitudinal development and risk for maladaptation, in both population studies and clinical samples.  He is particularly known for his work on parent child attachment and parenting, and in the use of longitudinal studies for disentangling effects of early experience on later outcomes.  He is joint-Director of UCL’s Doctorate in Clinical Psychology, Deputy Head of Department of the Research Department of Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology, Director of the Anna Freud Centre Development Neuroscience Unit and visiting faculty member of the Child Study Center at Yale University. 

Working with somatoform patients: an integrative, neuroscience informed perspective

Patrick Luyten (KU Leuven, Belgium, and University College London, UK)

Workshop Abstract: Evidence based treatments for patients with persistent somatic or somatoform symptoms are only modestly effective in most patients. Yet, in routine clinical practice, many patients present with such problems. In this workshop, I will first present an update of our evolving understanding of somatoform disorders rooted in a contemporary attachment and mentalizing approach. I will review how neuroscience findings demonstrating the close relationships among attachment, stress regulation, and immune and pain-regulating systems, have influenced both our understanding of these conditions and our therapeutic approach. I will focus on the high interpersonal and metabolic costs associated with the use of insecure secondary attachment strategies, and resulting impairments in mentalizing, in individuals that are at risk to develop persistent somatic symptoms. Using role-play, I will illustrate the treatment approach that we developed based on our increased understanding of the nature of these problems, and also summarize research evidence concerning its efficacy. 

Biography: Patrick Luyten, PhD is Professor of Clinical Psychology at the Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences, University of Leuven (Belgium) and Professor of Psychodynamic Psychology at the Research Department of Clinical, Educational, and Health Psychology, University College London (UK). 

His main research interests are disorders from the affective spectrum (i.e., depression and stress- and pain-related disorders), and personality disorders. In both areas he is involved in basic research and in interventional research. His basic research focuses on the roles of personality, attachment and social cognition or mentalizing, i.e., the capacity to understand oneself and others in terms of mental states, in these disorders from a developmental psychopathology perspective. Dr. Luyten’s research is fundamentally translational, as he is interested in translating knowledge concerning the mechanisms involved in the causation of psychopathology to the development of new interventions, the evaluation of their (cost)-effectiveness, and their dissemination to and implementation in routine clinical care. 

His most recent book, co-edited with Linda C. Mayes, Peter Fonagy, Mary Target (now Hepworth) and Sidney Blatt, Handbook of Psychodynamic Approaches, was published by Guilford Press in 2015 and received the 2015 Goethe Award for Psychoanalytic and Psychodynamic Scholarship. 

Abstracts for Parallel Workshops Session 2

Workshop on attention disorders and MBT: from the scanner to the consultation room

Martin Debbané (University of Geneva, Switzerland) and Nader Perroud (University of Geneva, Switzerland)

Workshop Abstract: In this hands-on workshop, we will provide the participants with a clinical and empirical foundation for using mentalization-based treatment (MBT) with adolescents and adults suffering from attention disorders. Clinical researchers, practitioners and students in mental health related fields will receive an introduction to MBT treatment for ADHD in this workshop. To start, we will review the characteristics of Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders, its clinical presentations, and the most recent knowledge from neuroscientific studies. We will then outline the challenges ADHD brings to clinical treatment, and more specifically to MBT treatment. We will follow this by presenting the clinical psychoeducative and psychotherapeutic programs currently employed in our clinical practice and research, and introducing the tools employed for MBT practice with this population. We will conclude with some practical activities to familiarize the participants with the current clinical developments and methodology in MBT for attention disorders.

Biographies: Martin Debbané is Associate Professor at the Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences, University of Geneva (Switzerland), at the Research Department of Clinical, Educational, and Health Psychology, University College London (UK). His research focuses on the development of psychopathology in youths and young adults, integration clinical, experimental and developmental psychology methods together with neuroscientific research. His clinical work as a psychodynamic psychotherapist specializes in mentalization-based treatment (MBT); he also supervises and provides training in MBT.  

Nader Perroud is a Psychiatrist and Psychotherapist specialized in the assessment and treatment of patients suffering from ADHD and/or borderline personality disorder. He is Clinical Senior Lecturer at the University Hospitals of Geneva and head of a unit dedicated to the care of patients suffering from emotion dysregulation. In this perspective, he has developed specialized psychotherapeutic approach for patients suffering from ADHD and has successfully implemented specialized and validated treatment for BPD and patients (MBT and DBT). At the research level, he has published several books and articles aiming at understanding environmental and biological factors associated with the development of psychiatric disorders characterized by high level of impulsivity and emotion dysregulation.

Mentalization-based treatment for aggressive behavior in adolescence

Svenja Taubner (University-Hospital Heidelberg, Ruprecht-Karls-University Heidelberg, Germany)

Workshop: Adolescents with externalizing behavior show consistent problems in mentalizing with regard to the general level and specifics problems in empathizing with others. This is in line with results from neuroscience demonstrating amygdala hypo or hyper response with regard to the level of aggressiveness and psychopathy. In a recent study, Taubner and colleagues could demonstrate that aggression provoking stimuli lead to a fight response in the Periaqueductal Grey (PAG) whereas controls showed a flight response. The mentalization approach regards problems in mentalizing as a core facet in the developmental psychopathology of conduct disorder. Thus, fostering mentalizing in therapeutic approaches with aggressive adolescents may interrupt chronic developmental pathways and situational fight responses. Mentalization-based treatment for conduct disorder (MBT-CD) addresses mainly aggressive behavior as a core symptom that is subject of a functional mentalizing analysis and scaffolding a mentalizing social environment. In this workshop, aside from neuroscientific results, MBT-CD is presented and demonstrated with case- and videomaterial.

Biography: Svenja Taubner, Prof. Dr. phil., Dipl. Psych., is Full Professor for Psychosocial Prevention and Director of the Institute for Psychosocial Prevention, University-Hospital Heidelberg, Ruprecht-Karls-University Heidelberg, Germany. She is also a psychoanalyst and MBT-A Trainer and Supervisor, and Trainer for MBT-Lighthouse. Her research topics include Mentalization, Adolescence, Conduct Disorder Personality Disorders, Therapeutic and Parental Competence. Svenja is President of the European Chapter of the Society for Psychotherapy Research and Board-Member of the European Society on the Study of Personality Disorder (ESSPD).

Call for Poster Presentations

There will be a poster presentation session at the conference. If you want to submit a poster abstract relevant to the conference's topic please contact events.psychoanalysis@ucl.ac.uk

For those interested in submitting a poster presentation abstract, guidelines for poster abstract submissions can be found here: poster guidelines 

Click Here for the Conference Programme

Pre-Conference Material: Speaker Interviews

Conference Report