Jung’s original neuroscience research project looked at the neurophysiological responses to the word association test (WAT) in an effort to understand ‘complexes’, those emotionally laden fixations that bother us all, and can be inferred from certain painful responses in the WAT. He measured breathing rates, skin conductance and electrocardiography, but there was no brain functional imaging technology available at the time. One hundred years later, a wide range of brain functional technologies are available, and this chapter describes two studies in which the WAT was performed under functional magnetic resonance imaging and quantitative electroencephalography conditions. In essence, a complexed response first activates the amygdala (many right-sided). This is followed in the next 3 s by bilateral brain activity in the anterior insula, the supplementary motor area and the dorsal cingulum; the premotor mirror neuron areas, the so-called resonance circuitry, which is central to mindfulness (awareness of self) and empathy (sense of the other), negotiations between self-awareness and the ‘internal other’, and has been well described by Dan Siegel. But over the following 2 s, activity shifts to the left hemisphere, seemingly the way the brain deals with a complex in the moment, possibly to dull the pain of the complexed response.
Part of the book: Neuroimaging