PPT Presentation by Dan Siegel

Presentation by Dan Siegel, Melbourne, Feb 24-5, 2014

The following document is a combination of Dan Siegel’s handout to the seminar participants and my own notes taken at the time. The handout was based on a Powerpoint Presentation, so is mostly in point-form. As a consequence, many of the ideas and concepts are not fleshed out. Instead they provide intriguing clues and jumping-off points for further investigation into the nature of the Mind, ‘mental illness’ and Integration.

Siegel draws on multiple disciplines in his construction of “Interpersonal Neurobiology”.    Systems Theory is of particular importance in his formulation of the nature of the Mind. It would seem to me that to work on unravelling the complexity of the brain’s neural net without drawing on systems theory would be short-sighted.


SYSTEMS THEORY and its application to Brain/Mind/Relationships

Qualities of the System relevant for understanding the Mind:

Open system
Non-linear ie, small inputs can lead to unpredictable results
Capable of being chaotic

This indicates a Complex system.

Complex Systems

  1. Emergent properties (arise from the elements of the system)
  2. Self Organization is an emergent property
  3. recursive property (turns back and regulates the system from which it came)
  4. moves system to maximize ‘complexity’

What is “Complexity”? – “F.A.C.E.S.”

Flexible               〉
Adaptive              〉
Coherent              〉optimal self-organization
Energized            〉
Stable                〉



A Working Definition of a core aspect of Mind:


A Self-Organizing, emergent process that arises from the interactions of elements of a system – ie, from the flow of energy within embodied neural activity and relational communication

The Mind is something that emerges through shared interpersonal relationships and shapes the brain.

Therefore Subjective Experience is an aspect, but not the whole definition of Mind.

[PDP Model: parallel distributed processing]


– the sharing of energy and information



The linkage of differentiated elements of a system (whether personal, interrelational or larger, i.e., communal).

The concept of differentiation and linkage is a core systems concept. It can be found in Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow, in which he states that the human experience oscillates between the needs of the individual self and the needs of the community. The balance, which systems theory calls ‘maximizing complexity’, is here called Integration.

Integration does not mean that the different elements (or the Self) disappears. (Fruit salad, not a smoothie) Integration is within and between the differentiated parts.

Integration is a function and a structure.

Singing Exercise:

About twenty people came up on the stage when Dan asked for people who sang in a choir. He got us to do three different exercises.

  1. All the singers sang a single note, for about 30 seconds.
  2. We all sang different songs simultaneously.
  3. The group chose a single song to sing as a choir.

Dan then asked the audience about the integration or lack of it with each exercise. For each exercise he asked: Was it differentiated? Was it linked? Was there integration?

For 1.
Differentiated ?    No
Linked?               Yes
Integrated?         No

For 2.
Differentiated?     Yes
Linked?                 No
Integrated?         No

For 3.
Differentiated?     Yes
Linked?                 Yes
Integrated?         Yes



Complex systems NOT maximizing complexity (not differentiated and/or linked, ie, not integrated) move toward Chaos or Rigidity. [in the singing exercise above, no.1 is rigid and no.2 is chaotic.]

In other words, in relation to the working of the mind/neural network : if elements of the system are differentiated and NOT linked, the individual’s mode of being will be chaotic, disorganised and fragmented , at first internally, and eventually spilling out into the external world.  If the elements of the system are linked, but not differentiated, the individual’s mode of being will be rigid, inflexible, tunnel-visioned.

Examples of impaired neural integration in mental health:

Developmental Trauma
Schizophrenia (too FEW linking fibres between frontal cortex and amygdala)
OCD   (excessively differentiated regions)
PTSD – excessive chaos and rigidity
Bipolar Disorder – chaos and/or rigidity

EMOTIONS as expressions of integration:

Positive versus negative emotions can be seen as shifts in integration.

  1. Integration promotes an ‘upshift’ of emotion – experienced as ‘good/positive’ emotion, moving the individual towards feelings of happiness.
  2. Break in integration, shift towards dis-integration promotes a ‘downshift’ which is experienced as ‘bad/negative’ emotion, creating a feedback loop that perpetuates the dis-integrated state.



  1. “Effective therapy changes the brain” can be restated as “Effective therapy integrates the brain”.
  2. Integration creates Harmony
  3. Regions are differentiated and then linked.
  4. Impairments to Integration lead to Chaos and/or Rigidity
  5. Nine domains of Integration
  6. Strategies for enhancing Neuroplasticity



  1. Relationships
  2. Sleep
  3. Nutrition (need Omega-3)
  4. Aerobic exercise
  5. Novelty
  6. Close paying of attention (stimulates neuron growth & pathways)



  1. Mechanisms of change:
  • Synaptogenesis   (relates to the memory system)
  • Neurogenesis (aided by novelty in experience)
  • Myelinogenesis (co-ordination & balance of neuron firing leads to skill acquirement – needs Omega-3)
  • Epigenesis (epigenes are non-DNA molecules. Experience does not change the DNA, but does affect epigenetic molecules on the genome. Related to the stress response.) (In defining Neuroplasticity, add “leads towards Integration”)
  • 2. Strategies of Change:
    • The Focus of Attention activates specific circuits.

    Focus is like the scalpel.
    (prefrontal) Anterior singulate :
    stabbed with a knife                             〉
    OR                                                       〉 both feel the same – same system
    stabbed with rejection                          〉

    • A Sense of Trust enhances receptive learning

    [A GP adds 30 seconds of empathic attunement in a consultation with a patient with the common cold, research shows the patient gets better a day earlier than those who get no warmth & interest. Resonance – the separate self feels like it is part of We. Aids immune system. The neuroscience of Trust.]

    • Memory Retrieval as a Memory Modifier

    [When a memory is shared, it can transform the memory]

    • Unlearning and Learning

    [Oxytocin is used in unlearning something. NOT the same as re-learning]

    • Deep practice and Skill training

    [Coyle – The Talent Code – focus on the weak area, stay present to it and work with it. Contrary to the ‘positive psychology’ approach of only focusing on the strengths.]


1 thought on “PPT Presentation by Dan Siegel”

  1. Brilliant! thanks for this wonderful resource!


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