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Plasticity and Pathology

On the Formation of the Neural Subject

Edited by David Bates, and Nima Bassiri

Publication Year: 2015

With the rise of cognitive science and the revolution in neuroscience, it is now commonplace to assume that the study of a human person—a thinking, feeling, acting subject—is ultimately the study of the human brain. In both Europe and the United States, massive state-funded research is focused on mapping the brain in all its remarkable complexity. The metaphors employed are largely technological: A wiring diagram of synaptic connectivity will lead to a better understanding of human behavior and perhaps insights into the breakdown of human personhood with diseases of the brain such as Alzheimer’s. Alongside this technologized discourse of the brain as locus of human subjectivity we find another perspective, one that emphasizes its essential plasticity—in both the developmental sense and as a response to traumas such as strokes, tumors, or gunshot wounds. This collection of essays brings together a diverse range of scholars to investigate how the “neural subject” of the twenty-first century came to be. Taking approaches both historical and theoretical, they probe the possibilities and limits of neuroscientific understandings of human experience. Topics include landmark studies in the history of neuroscience, the relationship between neural and technological “pathologies,” and analyses of contemporary concepts of plasticity and pathology in cognitive neuroscience. Central to the volume is a critical examination of the relationship between pathology and plasticity. Because pathology is often the occasion for neural reorganization and adaptation, it exists not in opposition to the brain’s “normal” operation but instead as something intimately connected to our ways of being and understanding.

Published by: Fordham University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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Contents

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pp. v-vi

Illustrations

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pp. vii-viii

Contributors

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pp. ix-x

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Preface

David Bates, Nima Bassiri

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pp. xi-xiii

The essays collected here were presented at the workshop Plasticity and Pathology: History and Theory of Neural Subjects at the Doreen B. Townsend Center for the Humanities at the University of California, Berkeley. As co-organizers of this...

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1. Toward an Ethnographyof Experimental Psychology

Emily Martin

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pp. 1-19

An enduring question in the history and philosophy of science is: What do we mean by objectivity and subjectivity?1 In their historical overview Lorraine Daston and Peter Galison set out three phases of scientific knowledge over the centuries...

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2. “You Are (Not) Your Synapses”: Toward a Critical Approach to Neuroscience

Catherine Malabou

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pp. 20-34

Two relatively recent and perfectly simultaneous intellectual encounters happened to be decisive for my philosophical trajectory, changing its course and making any attempt at going backward impossible: my encounter with...

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3 Plasticity, Pathology, and Pleasure in Cold War America.

Cathy Gere

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pp. 35-64

In 1970 Tulane University neuroscientist Robert Heath attempted to reorient a young gay man’s sexuality by means of direct electrical stimulation of his neural “pleasure center.” The experiment combined a heteronormative view of healthy...

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4. Epileptic Insanity and Personal Identity: John Hughlings Jackson and the Formations of the Neuropathic Self

Nima Bassiri

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pp. 65-111

A span of two hundred years, from the end of the seventeenth to the end of the nineteenth century, separates a striking reversal of positions on the relationship between madness and personhood. In 1694 John Locke published...

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5. Integrations, Vigilance, Catastrophe:The Neuropsychiatry of Aphasia in Henry Headand Kurt Goldstein

Stefanos Geroulanos, Todd Meyers

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pp. 112-158

This essay forms part of a broader project concerned with the ways in which, around World War I, the disciplines dealing with the human body exhibited a marked shift toward medical and physiological theories of bodily...

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6. The History of a Brain Wound: Alexander Luriaand the Dialectics of Soviet Plasticity

Hannah Proctor, Laura Salisbury

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pp. 159-193

On March 2, 1943, a twenty-three-year-old Russian experienced a revolution every bit as transformative as the one that just preceded his birth. The revolution of 1917 had transformed the social world and had led to the creation...

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7. Automaticity, Plasticity, and the Deviant Origins of Artificial Intelligence

David Bates

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pp. 194-218

The contemporary brain is largely a digital brain.1 Not only do we study the brain through virtual technologies that rely on digital visualizations, but the brain’s very activity is often modeled by a digital simulation.2 And the brain...

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8. Plastic Diagrams: Circuits in the Brain and How They Got There

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pp. 219-267

Today we talk easily about the similarities between brains and computers, between programs and thought processes, between neurons and neural networks.1 We speak of recovering addicts “reprogramming” their minds...

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9. Imperfect Reflections: Norms, Pathology, and Difference in Mirror Neuron Research

Katja Guenther

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pp. 268-308

In the early 1990s the neurophysiologist Giacomo Rizzolatti and his research group in the Department of Neuroscience at the University of Parma in Italy described a group of cells in the premotor cortex of monkeys that presented...

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10. On How Adult Cerebral Plasticity Research Has Decoupled Pathology from Death

Tobias Rees

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pp. 309-342

Prochiantz was watching outside a window, overseeing a Paris covered in pigeon dirt. I looked at my scribbles. “Death,” I had noted him saying, “is a solution. Life is a problem.”
Let me explain...

Index

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pp. 343-354


E-ISBN-13: 9780823266173
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823266135

Page Count: 256
Illustrations: 8 b/w illustrations
Publication Year: 2015

OCLC Number: 930760512
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Plasticity and Pathology