The island of drive: Representations, somatic states and the origin of drive

Pierre J. Magistretti*, François Ansermet

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Freud defined the drive as “a concept on the frontier between the mental and the somatic”. Today this view that was based on clinical observations interpreted within the psychoanalytical framework, can be revisited in light of the current neuroscientific notions of neuronal plasticity and somatic states. Indeed, through the mechanisms of plasticity experience leaves a trace that forms the neural basis of a representation of the experience. Such a representation R is associated with a somatic state S in the sense taken from the “somatic marker” model of Damasio. Thus, the internal reality of the subject, particularly the unconscious one, is constituted by such connected R’s and S’s. In the model discussed here, the posterior insula represents the primary interoceptive cortex where information about somatic states S converges, while in the anterior insula the connection between R and S can take place and establish a neurobiological correlate for the notion of drive. The authors posit that the re-representations of S associated with R in the anterior insula may correspond to the ‘Vorstellungsrepräsentanz’ postulated by Freud. They further propose that the tension between R and S, established in the anterior insula, is discharged according to the notion of drive through the motor arm of the limbic system, namely the anterior cingulate cortex which is heavily connected with the anterior insula.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationA Neuro-Psychoanalytical Dialogue for Bridging Freud and the Neurosciences
PublisherSpringer International Publishing
Number of pages11
ISBN (Electronic)9783319176055
ISBN (Print)9783319176048
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016


  • Anterior cingulate cortex
  • Drive
  • Freud
  • Insula
  • Somatic states
  • Vorstellungsrepräsentanz

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences
  • General Psychology
  • General Arts and Humanities


Dive into the research topics of 'The island of drive: Representations, somatic states and the origin of drive'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this