Fetal psychism: neurodynamic and psychoanalytic bases


  • Silvia Gomes Laurentino aNeurologia do Comportamento, MD, PhD
  • Suzanal Fiúza Boxwell bPsiquiatra e psicanalista M.D




fetal psyche, synaptogenesis, neurophysics, psychoanalysis, behavioral neuroscience, fetal development


Backgroung: Neuroscientific research has provided great discoveries regarding the understanding of the brain functioning and its neural circuits. With advances in studies on fetal behavior, new discussions have arisen about the existence of a possible rudimentary psychic apparatus. Questioning the existence of a psychism in the fetus becomes doubly challenging. First, because of the controversy that exists in the field of neuroscience about the studies of epiphenomena. Second, because of the difficulty that psychoanalysis has in accepting the existence of a psychic structure before birth. This study was carried out considering all these controversies and scientific limitations, and for this reason it should be understood as a theoretical hypothesis and an invitation to a broad and transdisciplinary view on the complexity of human behavior. From an extensive review on the development of the nervous system and fetal synaptogenesis, and combining neurophysiological and neurophysical research, it was possible to create a link with the Freudian theory of psychic energy described in the Project for a scientific psychology. From these joints, questions were raised about fetal development, especially in the preterm phase, which would be composed of intense synaptic activities, especially in the somatosensory and thalamocortical regions that would receive exogenous and endogenous stimuli, both acting to generate an accumulation of psychic energy. Thus, it was hypothesized that this intense flow of energy would be the first sign of the development of the primitive psychic apparatus in the fetus. Thus, it was possible to assume that during the preterm period this cathected energy discharge could project directly onto the limbic and motor brain structures and leave unconscious memory traces of intrauterine life experiences. These influences of a psychic nature, together with epigenetic factors, would contribute to the appearance of certain behavioral and neurodevelopmental disorders. Therefore, suggesting an early transdisciplinary approach in at-risk infants exposed to environmental or epigenetic stressors during the gestational period, especially during the synaptic plasticity window, will provide a therapeutic opportunity through psychic reorganization and sensorimotor integration.


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