To welcome Professor Catherine Belzung to the auditorium in Loppiano was Sergio Rondinara, professor of Epistemology and Cosmology. After having traced the wide academic route and her biography, prof. Rondinara underlined the “great passion and experience for interdiscipline”, not so easy to live in a fragmented cultural context such as our contemporary one, and a rare ability for epistemological introspection, that is, to be able to reflect on ones’ own activity while being critical of it at the one time. “The unification between two theories – he proceeded – is not an accidental process. The process of advancement of scientific knowledge, which is always producing new hypothesis, model and theories, necessitates these moments of synthesis.”
The rich and stimulating presentation of the central topic followed: Scientific research and dialogical thought. Paths among the neurosciences. Professor Belzung has retraced her journey in research developed these past years and in particular since the time that her team of scholars began an innovative and stimulating modality of research. It wasn’t so much a lesson in neuroscience, but the presentation of a working and research method that is bringing such fruit that it is raising great interest and receiving recognition, such as the Legion of Honour. We touched on some current topics: from epistemology to inter-disciplinarity, from the relationship between logic of discovery and inspiration, to that of scientific justification.
The neurobiologist illustrated in detail a piece of research on depression on which she has worked on for years, not only with colleagues in her scientific field, but also with psychologists, psychiatrists, biologists, pharmacists, philosophers and even with an economist: an original experience of dialogue between areas of knowledge which respects the autonomy and originality of each field but knows how to bring them into dialogue and make it so that each one can enrich the common path with its language, its logic, and its prospective. She affirmed that “Intelligence is not defined or exercised in solitude, and each thought that thinks itself sufficient unto itself and flies from confrontation, is weakened and slides into fantasy, or hardens into a fixed idea and becomes foggy.” A fruitful dialogue however “supposes one to be well rooted in one’s own discipline to avoid confusion in the various approaches and losing one’s identity. It is necessary to dig into the knowledge of the discipline, participating in specific congresses and perfecting its methods. It isn’t about renouncing one’s identity, fearful of hurting the other or of meeting with the other’s incomprehension, but of affirming it and sharing it with the others. Deepening one’s own belonging does not diminish the interest for what founds the identity of the other.” Diversity in unity hence, which allowed the entwining of threads from theories considered antagonistic in the approach to depression and which is bearing un-thought of fruit.
At the end, in thanking her, prof. Rondinara underlined how well illustrated was the concept of a “meta-physical window,” that moment in which the scientist finds himself in front of problems yet not knowing how to go forward because he is at the frontier of knowledge. “In creative scientists there is an opening to external influences, which do not deviate, but rather, urge on to define concepts, mental schemes, convictions and newer models to submit to the logic of justification in order to become objective scientific tools. The history of science is full of these moments and often, they are forgotten in favor of a rationality sure of itself that advances.”
After the lively dialogue in the auditorium with professor Belzung, Piero Coda, Rector of the IUS, in the end, showed how it had been “one of the best lectures of Sophia,” auguring that it may soon be published so that it may be gone into in depth, and so that it may inspire many in this modality of research that also characterizes Sophia University Institute since its foundation.
“The Ideal of Unity – commented Mario Agostino, IUS doctorate student – first of all it has permitted us to welcome the other intellectually, scientifically, and the same thing happened in the others in the scientific research community as was shown. This mutual, openness at the base, which is based on being nothingness, brought about for you the predisposition to a greater scientific objectivity in the innovative research process.”
Eminent figure on the international scientific scene, Catherine Belzung, neuroscientist, is Professor, Head of Team 4, of the department "Imagerie et Cerveau" of the University François Rabelais of Tours (France). In 1988 she receives her doctoral degree at the University "Louis Pasteur" in Strasburgh with the supervision of prof. Renè Misslin. Between 1988 and 1989 she follows with the title of post-doctoral degree at the CNR of Rome under the supervision of Prof. Stefano Puglisi-Allegra. From 1989 to 2002 she is Assistent at the University "François Rabelais" of Tours where beginning from 2002 she is Ordinary Professor, up to present time. She is responsible for the Master "Cognition and Neurosciences" and of the Centre d'Initiation aux Mètiers de l'Enseignement Supèrieur (CIMES) of the University François Rabelais of Tours. A member of the scientific council of the University François Rabelais of Tours, she is also part of the National Council of the University (CNU) – Neuroscience Section – and is consulting member of the scientific committee of the European College of Neuropsichopharmacology (ECNP). December 11 of 2012 she received the Legion of Honour for her scientific merits, the highest honour bestowed by the French Republic.
Among her publications, are numerous scientific articles in special magazines and in two academic texts: C. Belzung, Biologie des émotios, De Boeck 2007; C. Belzung - P. Wigmore, Neurogenesis and Neural Plasticity. Current Topics in Behavioral Neurosciences, Springer 2013.