3×5: Culture, Neuroscience, and Psychiatry Weekly Roundup (July 10)

1. Daniel Lende thoughtfully considers a recent issue of Anthropological Theory with special emphasis on neuroanthropology in his 6/29/12 post on “Franz Boas and Neuroanthropology.” 

2. Daniel also has a great post and link to a talk by Cal Tech physicist Leonard Mlodinow (and Star Trek: The Next Gen writer, err, everyone knows that, right?) on his new book, Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior.

3. Patrick Clarkin has done it again with a beautiful post on “Adversity, Reslience, and Adaptation.”

4. Wilson Will reviews Pamela Klassen’s Spirits of Protestantism: Medicine, Healing, and Liberal Christianity for Somatosphere. (This is a fascinating subject/review, but, Will also warns, for “those lured by the book’s cover image of a primitive surgical ward and expecting a treatment of liberal Christianity within the clinical context will find relatively little ethnographic detail about religion in the hospital setting; instead, they will have to wait for Wendy Cadge’s Paging God: Religion in the Halls of Medicine, under contract with Chicago.”)

5. Beth Bromley has a new paper in September 2012 issue of Social Science & Medicine,Building patient-centeredness: Hospital design as an interpretive act.


1.  Sepulcre, Sabuncu, & Johnson’s “Network assemblies in the functional brain,” in August 2012 Curr Opinion Neurology: “Functional connectivity MRI and corresponding analytical tools continue to reveal novel properties of the functional organization of the brain, which will in turn be key for understanding pathologies in neurology.”

2. Interview in July 6(?) Science with Laurence Steinberg on the (neuro)science behind Supreme Court’s ruling against mandatory life sentences for juveniles.

3. Review of  Lorraine Daston and Elizabeth Lunbeck’s edited volume, Histories of Scientific Observation, which “includes a fascinating exploration of empathy in 20th-century psychoanalysis (Lunbeck).” (Lorraine Daston is also the co-author (with Katharine Park) of Wonders and the Order of Nature, 1150–1750, a book of which I’m inordinately fond, aboutthe ways in which European naturalists from the High Middle Ages through the Enlightenment used wonder and wonders, the passion and its objects, to envision themselves and the natural world.”)

4. Mathalon and Ford’s May 2012 Neurobiology of schizophrenia: Search for the elusive correlation with symptoms in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience cites some well-known obstacles: “small samples, questionable reliability and validity of measurements, medication confounds, failure to distinguish state and trait effects, correlation–causation ambiguity, and the absence of compelling animal models of specific symptoms to test mechanistic hypotheses derived from brain-symptom correlations.”

5. Suzana Herculano-Houzel on “The remarkable yet not extraordinary, human brain as a scaled-up primate brain and its associated cost,” in special PNAS June issue on evolution.

[From Abstract] Here, I review . . . recent evidence and argue that, with 86 billion neurons and just as many nonneuronal cells, the human brain is a scaled-up primate brain in its cellular composition and metabolic cost, with a relatively enlarged cerebral cortex that does not have a relatively larger number of brain neurons yet is remarkable in its cognitive abilities and metabolism simply because of its extremely large number of neurons.


1. Laurence Kirmayer has a new paper in Juy 2012 Social Science & Medicine,”Cultural competence and evidence-based practice in mental health: Epistemic communities and the politics of pluralism.”

2. Two news items: In Kuala Lumpur: “Sword-wielding couple suffer from mental illness – police.” According to the 7/10/12 Sun Daily, “Khalil Afandi Hamid, 47, and the woman’s extremist religious beliefs might have caused them to run amok, initial police investigations have revealed.” Immediate thoughts of  Byron J. Good and Mary-Jo DelVecchio Good’s already classic paper on this form of illness, “Why Do the Masses So Easily Run Amok? Madness and Violence in Indonesian Politics.” Latitudes 5:10-19 (June 2001).

3. And more evidence from Australia that “Police lockups overflowing with mentally ill,” according to the 7/12/12 Sydney Morning Herald.

4. Rhona MacDonald’s 7/9/12 post from PLoS Medicine on GlaxoSmithKline guilty plea to promoting antidepressants for unapproved uses. “Should complicit physicians remain unscathed?”

5. Not specifically on psychiatry, but a great read on history of medicine: June NEJM Perspective: The Burden of Disease and the Changing Task of Medicine by Jones, Podolsky, and Greene.

In many respects, our medical systems are best suited to diseases of the past, not those of the present or future. We must continue to adapt health systems and health policy as the burden of disease evolves. But we must also do more. Diseases can never be reduced to molecular pathways, mere technical problems requiring treatments or cures. Disease is a complex domain of human experience, involving explanation, expectation, and meaning. Doctors must acknowledge this complexity and formulate theories, practices, and systems that fully address the breadth and subtlety of disease.


In 2010, more than 1 in 5 US children were living in poverty.

This entry was posted in challenges of interdisciplinary research by Constance A. Cummings. Bookmark the permalink.

About Constance A. Cummings

Constance A. Cummings, PhD, is Project Director of the non-profit Foundation for Psychocultural Research, which supports and advances interdisciplinary research and scholarship at the intersection of brain, mind, culture, and mental health and illness. She is co-editor (with Carol Worthman, Paul Plotsky, and Dan Schechter) of Formative Experiences: The Interaction of Caregiving, Culture, and Developmental Psychobiology (Cambridge University Press, 2010) and (with Laurence Kirmayer and Rob Lemelson) the forthcoming Re-Visioning Psychiatry: Cultural Phenomenology, Critical Neuroscience, and Global Mental Health (Cambridge, 2015). She received her doctorate in theoretical linguistics from New York University.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s