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

Pierre J. Magistretti*, François Ansermet

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 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 that we discuss, 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. We posit that the re-representations of S associated with R in the anterior insula may c orrespond to the Vorstellungsrepräsentanz postulated by Freud. We 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 c onnected with the anterior insula.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)281-285
Number of pages5
JournalSchweizer Archiv fur Neurologie und Psychiatrie
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2012


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

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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