To the Editor: My point in referring to Pierre Janet’s use of the term desagregation mentale was not to misattribute the English term dissociation to a poor translation of Janet’s language, but rather to highlight his superior understanding of the phenomenon, which involves not a mere separation of elements of identity, memory, and consciousness but rather a failure of the normal processes of integration of these elements that would normally aggregate. While Janet may have used the more common term dissociation as well, it is clear that he thought of the problem as a failure of integration rather than a mere separation. At a time when modern neuroscience is uncovering specific brain regions (perirhinal cortex and hippocampus) involved in binding previously disparate aspects of perception (1), it behooves us to recognize early thinkers who identified problems in integration of various aspects of perception, identity, memory, and consciousness, rather than merely describing their dissociation or disintegration.
1.Taylor KI, Moss HE, Stamatakis EA, Tyler LK: Binding crossmodal object features in perirhinal cortex. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2006; 103:8239–8244