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The Encultured Brain, by Greg Downey and Daniel H. Lende

01/08/2012


The editors of The Encultured Brain, a book that presents itself as “an introduction to neuroanthropology,” state that the discipline’s project is “to examine different neural systems empirically, understand how neural capacities develop, and document which biological and environmental factors shape their realization” (Downey and Lende 2012, 24).


The Encultured Brain claims to break with earlier notions of culture: 

For a long time, anthropologists have focused on culture as a system of symbolic associations, public signs, or shared meaning. But from the perspective of the nervous system, patterns of variation among different groups also include significant unconscious, non-symbolic traits, such as patterns of behavior, automatized response, skills, and perceptual biases. This neuroanthropological framing opens more space for considering why all types of cognition may not operate in identical fashion, and how non-cognitive forms of neural enculturation may influence thought and action. (Downey and Lende 2012, 37) 

In other words, culture is not only about shared representations but also about “shared conditionings of the nervous system.” This may seem self-evident, since it is unlikely that there can be shared patterns of behavior, either symbolic or automatic, in the absence of some shared brain processes. Yet for the authors we just quoted, it is the “implications” of that principle that appear “obvious.”

[...] All of this, as the authors say, is obvious. The questions are whether, or in what sense, examining changes in the brain significantly adds to an understanding of culture beyond reiterating that neurobiological processes are involved, and how the notion of culture operates within the conceptual and methodological framework of the neuro.

Vidal, Fernando and Ortega, Francisco. Being Brains: Making the Cerebral Subject (Forms of Living)....

Cover of the book

Summary of the book


Basic concepts and case studies from an emerging field that investigates human capacities and pathologies at the intersection of brain and culture.

The brain and the nervous system are our most cultural organs. Our nervous system is especially immature at birth, our brain disproportionately small in relation to its adult size and open to cultural sculpting at multiple levels. Recognizing this, the new field of neuroanthropology places the brain at the center of discussions about human nature and culture. Anthropology offers brain science more robust accounts of enculturation to explain observable difference in brain function; neuroscience offers anthropology evidence of neuroplasticity's role in social and cultural dynamics. This book provides a foundational text for neuroanthropology, offering basic concepts and case studies at the intersection of brain and culture.

After an overview of the field and background information on recent research in biology, a series of case studies demonstrate neuroanthropology in practice. Contributors first focus on capabilities and skills—including memory in medical practice, skill acquisition in martial arts, and the role of humor in coping with breast cancer treatment and recovery—then report on problems and pathologies that range from post-traumatic stress disorder among veterans to smoking as a part of college social life.

You can purchase The Encultured Brain at the link below:

The Encultured Brain at MIT Press

Greg is a teacher, writer, and anthropologist who has conducted field research in Brazil, the United...

gregdowney.me/

Daniel Lende is an Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of South Florida.
Greg Downey and Daniel Lende ran together a blog dedicated to Neuroanthropology. The last post is dated August 2014, but you can still access the blog to learn more about the field:

neuroanthropology.net/

You can also watch these lectures by Greg Downey and Daniel Lende:
Introducing Anthropology: Development and Culture Change - Associate Professor Greg Downey
FPR-UCLA CMB 2012: "Why Culture, Mind, and Brain?" Steve Heine, Marco Iacoboni, and Greg Downey
Robert Wright & Daniel Lende [The Wright Show]
In a very interesting talk, Greg Downey talks about Brazilian Capoeira and how he believes the things we learn are able to shape our brain:
Dr. Greg Downey on Brazilian Capoeira, "Dance of the Disorderly"

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Published in 11/01/2019

Updated in 19/02/2021

All events in the topic Chap. 2: The Neurodisciplines of Culture:


01/08/2012The Encultured Brain, by Greg Downey and Daniel H. LendeThe Encultured Brain, by Greg Downey and Daniel H. Lende
01/01/2009 (Aprox)01/01/2013 (Aprox)Special Issues on Cultural Neuroscience
01/03/2012 (Aprox)01/05/2012 (Aprox)Special Issues on NeuroanthropologySpecial Issues on Neuroanthropology
01/01/2007 (Aprox)First appearance of the term cultural neuroscienceFirst appearance of the term cultural neuroscience
01/01/1992 (Aprox)Early use of the term social neuroscience
29/12/2004Social Neuroscience, by John T. Cacioppo and Gary BerntsonSocial Neuroscience, by John T. Cacioppo and Gary Berntson
01/01/2006 (Aprox)Launch of the journal Social Neuroscience
01/01/2008 (Aprox)Foundation of the Social and Affective Neuroscience SocietyFoundation of the Social and Affective Neuroscience Society
20/01/2010Foundation of the Society for Social NeuroscienceFoundation of the Society for Social Neuroscience
01/01/2013 (Aprox)Foundation of the journal Culture & Brain
01/01/1991 (Aprox)Thinking Through Cultures, by Richard ShwederThinking Through Cultures, by Richard Shweder
01/01/2009 (Aprox)Neural basis of individualistic and collectivistic views of the self, by Chiao et al.Neural basis of individualistic and collectivistic views of the self, by Chiao et al.
23/08/2008The first Ph.D. in NeuroanthropologyThe first Ph.D. in Neuroanthropology
01/01/2015 (Aprox)Cultural Neuroscience: Connecting Culture, Brain, and Genes, by Kitayama and HuffCultural Neuroscience: Connecting Culture, Brain, and Genes, by Kitayama and Huff
01/01/1871 (Aprox)Primitive Culture, by Edward Burnett TylorPrimitive Culture, by Edward Burnett Tylor
01/01/1985 (Aprox)Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society, by Raymond WilliamsKeywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society, by Raymond Williams
01/01/1928 (Aprox)Coming of Age in Samoa, by Margaret MeadComing of Age in Samoa, by Margaret Mead
01/06/2006Launch of the journal Social Cognitive and Affective NeuroscienceLaunch of the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience
01/01/1997 (Aprox)Appearance of the term neuroanthropology in the Dictionary of AnthropologyAppearance of the term neuroanthropology in the Dictionary of Anthropology
01/01/2012 (Aprox)Neuroanthropology vs. Cultural Neuroscience
01/01/2007 (Aprox)Neural Basis of Cultural Influence on Self-Representation, by Zhu et al.
01/01/2003 (Aprox)01/01/2015 (Aprox)Topics researched in cultural neuroscienceTopics researched in cultural neuroscience