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It should, we hope, by now be clear that neuroscience not simply warrants but perhaps demands attention from sociologists. However, to-date, debate around the ‘new brain sciences’ has been limited within sociology; it has mostly been ethicists who have opened up discussions on the normative and epistemological issues neuroscience raises. Of course, this is not to say that sociologists and other social scientists have been blind to the developments in the brain sciences; a variety of significant and nuanced analyses have begun to be advanced. There can be no doubt that a rich vein of creative and insightful scholarship in what might be called the social studies of the neurosciences is already in existence, and will surely widen. Yet, we can also see that much work remains to be done. It is our intention that this book will play an important role in the elaboration of scholarship in the field. To this end, we have sought and included a range of perspectives from (medical) sociologists and anthropologists, which vividly illustrate the varied social life of the neurosciences, and brightly illuminates the diverse conceptualisations, approaches and standpoints available to sociological analysts.
This chapter presents findings of ethnographic work in a neuro-oncology clinic in Israel. It is claimed that patients, close-ones and physicians engage in creating…
This chapter presents findings of ethnographic work in a neuro-oncology clinic in Israel. It is claimed that patients, close-ones and physicians engage in creating metaphorical visions of the brain and brain tumours that reaffirm Cartesian dualism. The ‘brain talk’ involved visible and spatial terms and results in a particular kind of objectification of the organ of the self. The overbearing presence of visual media (i.e., magnetic resonance imaging, computed tomography, angiographic studies) further gave rise to particular forms of interactions with patients and physicians where the ‘imageable’ (i.e., the image on the screen) became the ‘imaginable’ (i.e., the metaphor). The images mostly referred to a domain of mundane objects: a meatball in a dish of spaghetti, a topping of olives over a pizza, the surface of the moon, a stone, an egg, an animal, a dark cloud. Furthermore, conversations with family members showed that formal facts and informed compassion were substituted by concrete representations. For them, and especially for the patient, these representations redefined an ungraspable situation, where a tumour – an object – can so easily affect the organ of their subjectivity, into something comprehensible through the materialistic, often mechanistic actions of most mundane objects. This, however, also created alienated objects within the boundaries of their own embodied selves. Patients, on the one hand, did not reject their own sense of ‘own-ness’, of having a lifeworld (lebenswelt) as subjective agents, but on the other, did talk about their own interiors as being an ‘other’: an object visible, observable and imaginable from a third-person standpoint – a standpoint drawing its authority from biomedical epistemology and practice.
Neuroscience, with its promise to peer into the brain and explain the sources of human behavior and human consciousness, has captured the scientific, clinical, and public imaginations. Among those in the thrall of neuroscience are a group of ethicists who are carving out a new subspecialty within the field of bioethics: neuroethics. Neuroethics has taken as its task the policing of neuroscience. By virtue of its very existence, neuroethics presents a threat to its parent field bioethics. In its struggle to maintain authority as the guardian of neuroscience, neuroethics must respond to criticisms from bioethicists who see no need for the subspecialty. We describe the social history of neuroethics and use that history to consider several issues of concern to social scientists, including the social contexts that generate ethical questions and shape the way those questions are framed and answered; strategies used by neuroethicists to secure a place in an occupational structure that includes life scientists and other ethics experts; and the impact of the field of neuroethics on both the work of neuroscience and public perceptions of the value and danger of the science of the brain.
Neuroscientific technologies have begun to change the ways in which we understand, respond to, and treat drug addiction. According to addiction researchers, neuroscience…
Neuroscientific technologies have begun to change the ways in which we understand, respond to, and treat drug addiction. According to addiction researchers, neuroscience marks a new era because of its potential to locate the causes of addiction within the brain and to treat addiction through altering neurochemistry. However, little is known about how addiction neuroscience and new neurochemical treatments shape individuals' experience of addiction and constitute new arrangements of knowledge and power that shape subjectivity and governance. This chapter addresses these domains by drawing on an analysis of scientific literature about addiction neuroscience and qualitative interviews with people being treated for addiction with buprenorphine, a pharmaceutical treatment for opioid dependence. The chapter charts four major themes in the addiction neuroscience literature (pleasure and the limbic system, rationality and the role of the prefrontal cortex, theories of plasticity, and the role of volition) and explores how each of these is incorporated, adapted, or rejected by individuals being treated for addiction with a pharmaceutical. This analysis demonstrates how neuroscientific ideas are mediated by the lived experiences of those being treated under a neuroscientific model. It also suggests that while neuroscientific interventions, like pharmaceuticals, shape the experience of those being treated for addiction, so too do many other forces, including social circumstances, moral frameworks, the drive for autonomy, and the quest to be “normal.”