University of Michigan professor wins prestigious international award

University of Michigan Health System
Thursday, 11 December 2003

A University of Michigan professor of psychology and psychoanalyst whose research uses scientific methods to probe the intersection between neuroscience and Freud has won one of his field's highest honors.

Howard Shevrin, Ph.D., a professor of psychology in the U-M Medical School's Department of Psychiatry and in the U-M College of Literature, Science and the Arts, has been named one of four winners of the Mary S. Sigourney Award for 2003.

He will receive the award and a $35,000 cash prize on January 23 in New York, along with two other individuals and an institute.

The award recognizes outstanding achievements in applied psychoanalysis and research. It is given by the Mary S. Sigourney Award Trust, an independent foundation named for a California publisher who sought to reward new activity in psychoanalysis. This year's winners are all from the United States; the award is given to U.S. recipients only once every three years.

For more than 40 years, Shevrin has pushed at the boundaries between the disciplines of neuroscience and psychoanalysis, looking for evidence that Freudian concepts such as the unconscious and repression could be documented through physical measures of brain activity. In other words, his work has explored the territory where neurobiology, thoughts, emotions and behavior meet.

In 1968 he published in the journal Science the first report of brain responses to unconscious visual stimuli, thus providing strong objective evidence for the existence of the unconscious at a time when most scientists were skeptical of Freud's ideas. In that same study, he showed that unconscious perceptions are processed in different ways from conscious perceptions, a finding consistent with Freud's views on how the unconscious works.

Recently, he led a study that suggested a link between repressive personality traits and a longer-than-average delay between the application of a stimulus and the conscious awareness of that stimulus. Another recent study by Shevrin and his colleagues found brain markers for unconscious factors at work in producing social phobias.

In addition to his research, Shevrin is the author of a newly published psychoanalytic novel in verse form, Dream Interpreters (International Universities Press). He is also a co-author of Conscious and Unconscious Processes: Psychodynamic, Cognitive, and Neurophysiological Convergences and editor of Subliminal Explorations of Perceptions, Dreams, and Fantasies: The Pioneering Contributions of Charles Fisher.

Shevrin also takes part in the U-M Department of Psychiatry's long-term psychodynamic psychotherapy clinic, a joint effort with the Michigan Psychoanalytic Institute.

The other 2003 Sigourney Award recipients include another MPI affiliated psychoanalyst, Wayne State University associate professor Marvin Margolis, M.D., Ph.D., as well as Stanley I. Greenspan, M.D., of Bethesda, Maryland, and the William Alanson White Institute of New York City.

For more information, or to contact University of Michigan Health System, see their website at: www.med.umich.edu

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