Tag Archives: neuroscience

UCL/BPS Talk July 18th: Fabio de Sio on J. C. Eccles and the Dawn of Neuroscience in Britain

J. C. Eccles

The British Psychological Society‘s History of Psychology Centre, in conjunction with UCL’s Centre for the History of the Psychological Disciplines, has announced the next talk in the Summer term. On Monday July 18th Fabio de Sio will be speaking on “The title is misleading: J.C. Eccles, the Waynflete Lectures and the dawn of the neurosciences in Britain (1945–1954).” Full details follow below.

Monday 18th July
Dr Fabio de Sio (Heinrich Heine University, Düsseldorf): “The title is misleading: J.C. Eccles, the Waynflete Lectures and the dawn of the neurosciences in Britain (1945–1954).”

The history of the neurosciences is usually cast as a cumulative process of discovery and theoretical innovation, leading to a veritable cultural revolution. The latter is accounted for in terms of an unstoppable growth of the brain, at the expense of the mind (or the soul), and as a progressive obliteration of old and fuzzy problems and entities (free will, mind, soul), traditionally associated with the explanation of human action. As a consequence, the neurosciences have been widely marketed not simply as the new model of scientific rationality (incorporating and integrating the bio- and psycho-disciplines), but also as the most suitable candidate to the title of ‘next science of Man’. This is based on the conflation between the growth of specialised knowledge and its interpretation in a wholly materialistic, brain-centric framework. This paper points at a different interpretation of the neurosciences as a cultural programme, based not on scientific revolution, interdisciplinarity and brain-centrism, but rather on tradition, harmonic cooperation between distinct disciplines (physiology, philosophy, introspective psychology) and a strong, reductionistic focus on the neurone as the basic level of interpretation. Through an analysis of the scientific and cultural endeavours of the physiologist and Nobelist J.C. Eccles FRS (1903–1997), his 1952 Lectures, The Neurophysiological Bases of the Mind: the Principles of Neurophysiology, I show how the New Science of the Brain was criticised by Eccles as a materialistic heresy, rooted in cultural prejudices, rather than on sound experimentation and proper scientific method. In parallel, I will show how the special brand of neurosciences heralded by Eccles was almost universally ignored by its critics. Finally, I wish to point at a whole network of neuroscience-related specialists (physiologists, psychiatrists, psychologists) and engaged intellectuals, who took Eccles’ programme seriously, and tried to consolidate, in the following decades, an alternative science of the mind/brain.

Location: Arts and Humanities Common Room (G24), Foster Court, Malet Place, University College London

Time: 6-7:30pm

Directions: From the Torrington Place entrance to UCL, enter the campus on Malet Place.  After fifty metres, you will find Foser Court on the right hand side. Turn right under the underpass, and enter via the second door on the right.  The common room is straight ahead.

Special Issue on Cinema and Neuroscience

The first issue of 2016 of the Journal of the History of the Neurosciences is a special issue devoted to “Cinema and Neuroscience: Development and Application of Cinematography in the Field of the Neurosciences.” Full article titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

Introduction: “Cinema and Neuroscience: Development and Application of Cinematography in the Field of the Neurosciences,” by Geneviève Aubert. No abstract.

“Capturing Motion and Depth Before Cinematography,” by Nicholas J. Wade. The abstract reads,

Visual representations of biological states have traditionally faced two problems: they lacked motion and depth. Attempts were made to supply these wants over many centuries, but the major advances were made in the early-nineteenth century. Motion was synthesized by sequences of slightly different images presented in rapid succession and depth was added by presenting slightly different images to each eye. Apparent motion and depth were combined some years later, but they tended to be applied separately. The major figures in this early period were Wheatstone, Plateau, Horner, Duboscq, Claudet, and Purkinje. Others later in the century, like Marey and Muybridge, were stimulated to extend the uses to which apparent motion and photography could be applied to examining body movements. These developments occurred before the birth of cinematography, and significant insights were derived from attempts to combine motion and depth.

“The Dercum-Muybridge Collaboration and the Study of Pathologic Gaits Using Sequential Photography,” by Douglas J. Lanska. The abstract reads, Continue reading Special Issue on Cinema and Neuroscience

New Book: Rethinking Interdisciplinarity across the Social Sciences and Neurosciences

AHP readers may be interested in a new open access monograph, Rethinking Interdisciplinarity across the Social Sciences and Neurosciences. The book is a product of the research collective Hubbub, the inaugural resident of the Wellcome Collection’s interdisciplinary research space The Hub. Written by Felicity Callard and Des Fitzgerald, Rethinking Interdisciplinarity across the Social Sciences and Neurosciences

offers a provocative account of interdisciplinary research across the neurosciences, social sciences and humanities. Setting itself against standard accounts of interdisciplinary ‘integration,’ and rooting itself in the authors’ own experiences, the book establishes a radical agenda for collaboration across these disciplines. Rethinking Interdisciplinarity does not merely advocate interdisciplinary research, but attends to the hitherto tacit pragmatics, affects, power dynamics, and spatial logics in which that research is enfolded. Understanding the complex relationships between brains, minds, and environments requires a delicate, playful and genuinely experimental interdisciplinarity, and this book shows us how it can be done.

Launch of New Online Museum Dedicated to the History of Behavioral Neuroscience in Brazil

Estereotáxico para Cães e Gatos
Stereotactic instrument from collection

AHP is pleased to announce the launch of a rich new web resource: the Museu de História das Neurociências Comportamentais  [the History Museum of Behavioral Neuroscience]. The site features a digital collection of scientific instruments connected to the history of neuroscience, particularly behavioral neuroscience, in Brazil. It likewise highlights several key researchers who contributed to the development of behavioral neuroscience in Brazil.

The site has emerged out of work Dr. Rodrigo Lopes Miranda initially completed while on an internship at the Cummings Center for the History of Psychology in Akron, OH in 2013. The Museu de História das Neurociências Comportamentais was created while Miranda was completing a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of São Paulo. Co-editors on the project include Silvana Delfino and Nadia Iara Ramiris Maronesi, under the supervision of Drs. Anette Hoffmann and Marina Massimi.

The Museu de História das Neurociências Comportamentais will be of particular interest to those interested in scientific instrument collections and will make for a great online resource for both historians of psychology and their students alike. If your Portuguese is on the weak side, do not despair! You can use your browser settings to translate the pages to your language of choice (Google Chrome makes this particularly easy – see instructions here).

The Museu de História das Neurociências Comportamentais has plans to continue growing and contributions to the site are welcomed.  To submit a photograph of an instrument, laboratory space, or researcher connected to the history of behavioral neuroscience in Brazil, contact hnc.usp@gmail.com with a description of the person or object featured in the image, the name of the institution to which it is connected, and any references or links you would want included with the entry (You can download the contribution form here).

Gender on the Brain: Neuroscience, Stereotypes, & Science Communication

brain-gender-stereotypeCliodnha O’Connor and Helene Joffe out of the Division of Psychology & Language Sciences at University College London have conducted an interesting analysis of how public audiences have responded to research on neurobiological sexual dimorphism, Gender on the Brain: A Case Study of Science Communication in the New Media Environment.

Using a 2013 PNAS article titled Sex Differences in the Structural Connectome of the Human Brain as case study, the authors “tracked the journey of the PNAS research from its initial scientific publication, through a university-issued press release, into its reception in the traditional news media, online reader comments and blog entries.” Acccording to the abstract, their analysese “suggested that scientific research on sex difference offers an opportunity to rehearse abiding cultural understandings of gender. In both scientific and popular contexts, traditional gender stereotypes were projected onto the novel scientific information, which was harnessed to demonstrate the factual truth and normative legitimacy of these beliefs.”

In a London School of Economics and Political Science Blog post, O’Connor elucidates the highlights of their piece:  Continue reading Gender on the Brain: Neuroscience, Stereotypes, & Science Communication