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Massimiliano Aragona

What role can psychological and psychiatric research play for our understanding of the brain’s networks? Conversely, what can the research on neural networks offer psychiatry?

The first part of this lecture provides a critical overview of the present state of psychiatry, showing the methodological reasons for its admittedly limited contribution to neurocognitive progresses. Drawing on the history and epistemology of the discipline, it is shown that psychiatry is involved in a severe crisis waiting for a scientific revolution. The new neurocognitive proposals are presented and their limitations considered. This part is concluded by a discussion of the hermeneutic level involved in the co-construction of mental symptoms in the encounter between patient and healer. Consequences for neurocognitive research are hightlighted.

The second part of the talk present a few practical examples of the complexity involved in research. The fist considers direct stimulation of neuroreceptors (cannabis), the second the complexities in studying eating disorders, the third those arising in the study of empathy.


  • Psychiatrist, psychotherapist and philosopher.
  • Contract professor of General Psychology and Phenomenological Psychopathology at La Sapienza University, Rome, Italy
  • Editor of the international journal Dialogues in Philosophy, Mental and Neuro Sciences.
  • Secretary of the section Philosophy & Psychiatry of the European Psychiatric Association.
  • Author of several articles on clinical psychopathology, phenomenology, epistemology and methodology of psychiatry, psychopharmacology, psychopathology of migrations.
  • Author of three books on the epistemology of psychiatric diagnosis, and editor of books on the validity of psychiatric diagnosis and on psychosocial factors and post-traumatic conditions in immigrants.

Suggested readings

Aragona, M. (2014). Epistemological reflections about the crisis of the DSM-5 and the revolutionary potential of the RDoC project. Dialogues in Philosophy, Mental and Neuro Sciences, 7(1), p. 11-20: http://www.crossingdialogues.com/Ms-A14-08.pdf
Berrios, G.E. (2013). Formation and meaning of mental symptoms: history and epistemology. Dialogues in Philosophy, Mental and Neuro Sciences, 6(2), p. 39-48: http://www.crossingdialogues.com/Ms-A13-02.pdf
Cuthbert, B.N. & Insel, T.R. (2013) Toward the future of psychiatric diagnosis: the seven pillars of RDoC. BMC Medicine, 11, 126:

Sirgiovanni, E. (2009) The mechanistic approach to psychiatric classification. Dialogues in Philosophy, Mental and Neuro Sciences, 2, 45-49:http://www.crossingdialogues.com/Ms-C09-02.pdf
Zachar, P. & Jablensky, A. (2014). Introduction: The concept of validation in psychiatry and psychology. In: Zachar, P. et al. (org.). Alternative perspectives on psychiatric validation. DSM, ICD, RDoC, and beyond. Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. 3-24.


Conference Presentation

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