Learning Sciences of Change

Learning Change Project: 8 Blogs, 6960 Readings

Posts Tagged ‘neuroscience

The Neuroscience of In-group Bias

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Racism and in-group favoritism is prevalent in our society and has been studied in Social Psychology for a long time. Recently it has become possible to investigate the neural mechanisms that underlie these in-group biases, and hence this review will give an overview of recent developments on the topic. Rather than relying on a single brain region or network, it seems that subtle changes in neural activation across the brain, depending on the modalities involved, underlie how we divide the world into ‘us’ versus ‘them’. These insights have important implications for our understanding of how in-group biases develop and could potentially lead to new insights on how to reduce them.

These insights also have implications for cultural and developmental differences between individuals. For example, people in cultures that score high on vertical collectivism see themselves as part of the collective but accept inequalities within the group while people in cultures that score high on horizontal collectivism also see themselves as part of the collective but see all members of the collective the same. Therefore it is likely that explicit and implicit neural correlates involved in perceiving others will be influenced by the cultural environment. In some cultures negative attitudes toward some individuals or out-groups might be more socially acceptable than in others, which would in turn modulate the individual’s executive control over his or hers in-group biases.

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Written by Giorgio Bertini

September 3, 2014 at 12:16 pm

Mind Change: How Digital Technologies are leaving their mark on Our Brains

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In Mind Change, Susan Greenfield discusses the all-pervading technologies that now surround us, and from which we derive instant information, connected identity, diminished privacy and exceptionally vivid here-and-now experiences. In her view they are creating a new environment, with vast implications, because our minds are physically adapting: being rewired. What could this mean, and how can we harness, rather than be harnessed by, our new technological milieu to create better alternatives and more meaningful lives? Using the very latest research, Mind Change is intended to incite debate as well as yield the way forward. There is no better person to explain the situation in a way we can understand, and to offer new insights on how to improve our mental capacities and well being. Baroness Susan Greenfield CBE is a Senior Research Fellow at Lincoln College, Oxford University. A scientist, writer, broadcaster and Cross-Bench member in the House of Lords, she specialises in applying neuroscience to fundamental issues such as the impact of 21st-century technologies on the mind, how the brain generates consciousness, and the development of innovative approaches to neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

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Written by Giorgio Bertini

August 28, 2014 at 12:56 pm

Intergenerational Transmission of Fear

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Babies can learn very early in life to fear something that frightened their mothers even before they were born. Scientists have known for some time that trauma can ripple through generationsEmotional trauma is transmitted across generations. For example, children witnessing their parent expressing fear to specific sounds or images begin to express fear to those cues. Within normal range, this is adaptive, although pathological fear, such as occurs in posttraumatic stress disorder or specific phobias, is also socially transmitted to children and is thus of clinical concern. New research on fear transmission may help explain how that happens.

Our research demonstrates that infants can learn from maternal expression of fear very early in life,” said Jacek Debiec, MD, PhD, the psychiatrist and neuroscientist who led the research. “Before they can even make their own experiences, they basically acquire their mothers’ experiences. Most important, these maternally transmitted memories are long-lived, where other types of infant learning, if not repeated, rapidly perish.”

Jacek Debiec recalls working with adult children of Holocaust survivors who had nightmares and flashbacks related to experiences they had not endured themselves. Rachel Yehuda, a psychiatrist at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, has studied descendants of Holocaust survivors and the children of women who were pregnant and in or near the World Trade Center on 9/11/2001. She found evidence of intergenerational trauma transmission that could not have occurred through storytelling. She said understanding the brain changes that occur with intergenerational transmission could help people understand the long-term impact of parental experiences. “Your fears are not only a response to your personal experiences,” Yehuda told Verge, “but those that your parents had as well.”

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Read also: Intergenerational Transmission of Emotional Trauma

Written by Giorgio Bertini

August 1, 2014 at 1:33 pm

The New Science of Mind and the Future of Knowledge

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Understanding mental processes in biological terms makes available insights from the new science of the mind to explore connections between philosophy, psychology, the social sciences, the humanities, and studies of disorders of mind. In this perspective we examine how these linkages might be forged and how the new science of the mind might serve as an inspiration for further exploration.

We have seen in this essay four specific areas in which the new science of the mind is particularly well positioned to enrich our understanding of other areas of knowledge. We have seen its potential as an intellectual force and a font of new knowledge that is likely to bring about a new dialog between the natural sciences, the social sciences, and the humanities. This dialog could help us understand better the mechanisms in the brain that make creativity possible, whether in art, the sciences, or the humanities, and thus open up a new dimension in intellectual history. In addition, an enriched understanding of the brain is needed to guide public policy. Particularly promising areas are the cognitive and emotional development of infants, the improvement of teaching methods, and the evaluation of decisions. But perhaps the greatest consequence for public policy is the impact that brain science and its engagement with other disciplines is likely to have on the structure of the social universe as we know it.

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Written by Giorgio Bertini

July 6, 2014 at 10:21 pm

Bases Neurales de la Décision. Une approche de Neurosciences Cognitives

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Se basant sur les neurosciences, l’auteur passe successivement en revue divers problèmes relatifs à la décision: décision et raison, décision et regard, décision et inhibition, décision et double, décision et anticipation, décision et émotion, décision et interactions ou normes sociales (compétition entre émotion et cognition, changement de point de vue, sympathie et empathie). Il conclut son exposé en soulignant que dans tous ces processus neurophysiologiques et psychologiques extrêmement complexes et interactifs, il faut tenir compte en plus des différences interindividuelles liées à l’âge, l’expérience, le sexe.

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Written by Giorgio Bertini

June 3, 2014 at 9:43 pm

Brain Theory: Essays in Critical Neurophilosophy

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From its beginnings until the present day, neuroscience has always had a special relationship to philosophy. And philosophy has long puzzled over the relation between mind and brain (and by extension, the relation of cerebral processes to freedom, morals, and justice, but also to perception and art). This volume presents some of the state-of-the-art reflections on philosophical efforts to ‘make sense’ of neuroscience, as regards issues including neuro-aesthetics, neuro-ethics and neuro-law, but also more critical, evaluative perspectives on topics such as the social neuroscience of race, neuro-feminism, embodiment and collaboration, memory and pain, and more directly empirical topics such as neuro-constructivism and embodied robotics. Brain theory as presented here is neither mere commentary on the state of the sciences, nor armchair philosophical reflection on traditional topics. It is more pluralistic than current philosophy of neuroscience (or neurophenomenology), yet more directly engaged with empirical, indeed experimental matters than socio-cultural discussions of ‘brainhood‘ or representations of the brain.

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Written by Giorgio Bertini

May 14, 2014 at 2:20 pm

Sociological Reflections on the Neurosciences

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The neurosciences are the new cutting edge in biomedicine, and this is the first book to take a sociological imagination to this field. The neurosciences are more than a collection of scientific practices – they offer up new ways of thinking about mind, body and society. Up to now, debate about the ‘new brain sciences‘ has been limited within sociology. As the neurosciences gain ever more traction within professional arenas, policy processes and popular culture, it is time to go beyond the primarily speculative and theoretical analyses we have had to date, and bring our sociological imagination to bear. This collection addresses this need for sociological insight through empirically rich, theoretically innovative chapters that range across methods, traditions and foci in order to cast new light on the place, role and impact of neuroscience. At the same time, this volume reflects on the insights the neurosciences have to offer sociology. With cutting-edge contributions from leading scholars from Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Israel, the UK and the USA, “Sociological Reflections on the Neurosciences” will be a benchmark text in the new sociology of neuroscience.

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Written by Giorgio Bertini

February 13, 2014 at 9:10 pm

Posted in Neuroscience, Society

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Brain Culture: Neuroscience and Popular Media

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Brain Culture investigates the American obsession with the health of the brain. The brain has become more than a bodily organ, acquiring a near-mystical status. The message that this organ is the key to everything is everywhere–in self-help books that tell us to work on our brains to achieve happiness and enlightenment, in drug advertisements that promise a few tweaks to our brain chemistry will cure us of our discontents, and in politicians’ speeches that tell us that our brains are national resources essential to our economic prosperity.

Davi Johnson Thornton looks at these familiar messages, tracing the ways that brain science and colorful brain images produced by novel scientific technologies are taken up and distributed in popular media. She tracks the impact of the message that, “you are your brain” across multiple contemporary contexts, analyzing its influence on child development, family life, education, and public policy. Brain Culture shows that our fixation on the brain is not simply a reaction to scientific progress, but a cultural phenomenon deeply tied to social and political values of individualism and limitless achievement.

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Written by Giorgio Bertini

February 13, 2014 at 9:03 pm