Upcoming events at the Centre

In 2013 the Centre, in conjunction with the department of Neuroscience, Physiology and Pharmacology, will be running a series of seminars. Details below:

Prof David Armstrong, Department of Primary Care and Public Health Sciences, King’s College London.

“Origins of Behaviour”

5th February 2013

With recent advances in neuroscience the promise of a physical explanation for human behaviour seems to be getting closer.  At the same time behaviour is increasingly seen as an important factor in maintaining health and treating disease.  Throughout this engagement, however, the idea of ‘behaviour’ is very much taken-for-granted.  This presentation will therefore explore, through an examination of contemporary medical journals, how behaviour emerged as a key problem for science and health care between the 19th and 21st centuries.  It is argued that the origins of the concept/problem are relatively recent.

 

Katja Guenther, Assistant Professor, History of Science Program, Princeton University

“Reflex and Interpretation – A Genealogy of Psychoanalysis and the Neuro Disciplines” 

12 February 2013

In the medicine of mind and brain, the “neuro” and the “psy” disciplines – neurology, neurosurgery and neuroscience on the one hand, psychiatry, psychology and psychoanalysis on the other – have generally been considered as opposed in both their theory and practice. I aim to recast their relationship by focusing on Otfrid Foerster (1873-1941), a major proponent and founding figure of the neurological tradition in Germany, and Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) the father of psychoanalysis. An examination of their common engagement with sensory-motor, or reflex, physiology, as presented by the dominant neuropsychiatry in nineteenth-century Germany, allows us to think these different fields alongside each other and recognize unexpected parallels in their development, theory and practice.

 

Jesse F. Ballenger, Associate Professor, Science, Technology and Society , Penn State University

“To Conquer Confusion: The Struggle for a Coherent Framework for Dementia in Modern Medicine.”

5 March 2013

Since 1980, the massive investment of financial, institutional, and intellectual capital into research on the causes of and possible treatments for Alzheimer’s disease by both the federal government and private industry has helped to transform research on dementia from a small field with a broad agenda, to a massive multi-faceted research enterprise focused much more narrowly on pathological mechanisms. This has created unprecedented challenges in terms of managing the scale and scope of research, harmonizing clinical experience and laboratory knowledge generated in widely different contexts, negotiating the relationship between industry and academic research, diagnosing and treating multiple complex chronic conditions related to processes of aging, and using the information generated by generated by genetics and early diagnostics concerning risk factors and prodromal states in a coherent manner that meets the needs of researchers, clinicians, and patients. Understanding the transformation of the Alzheimer’s field in this period will yield great insight into what it means to research, diagnose, treat and live with chronic disease in late modernity.

 

Cornelius Borck, Institut fur Medizingeschichte und Wissenschaftsforschung, University of Luebeck

“Voodoo Correlations in Social Neuroscience: From Criticism to
Epistemological Analysis of Scientific Practice”

12 March 2013

The presentation takes the heated debate on “Voodoo correlations in
social neuroscience” as its starting point for an epistemological
analysis of functional neuroimaging. Back in 2009, the new and
flourishing field of social neuroscience faced fierce criticisms of
using flawed statistical methods that would lead to inflated
correlations. The debate left no alternative but to side with either the
critics or with the neuroscientists accusing the critics for their
insufficient understanding of complex statistics, thereby furbishing the
sequence of events to a textbook case of scientific debate on methods,
standards, and scientific authority. The call for a more robust
corroboration of experimental data, however, bypasses the
epistemological and ontological issues at stake here: Current work in
functional imaging flattens epistemological complexity, typical for the
previous paradigm of reductionist brain theories, and replaces it by an
ontological inflation of animated material objects. “Voodoo”, introduced
in the debate as a critique of curbed scientific rigor, thus turns into
a surprisingly descriptive concept, calling for further epistemological
discussions.

Seminars are open to all.

Medawar G01 Lankester Lecture Theatre, University College London. 

Map and directions:

http://www.ucl.ac.uk/find-us/

All seminars begin at 5pm.

Welcome!

Welcome to the newly-established blog of the UCL Centre for the History of Medicine. My thanks to Sally Frampton whose initiative this is. The Centre was established in 2011 and is located within the Division of Biosciences at UCL. This is an unusual, if not unique, situation for a humanities department that brings with it opportunities as well as challenges.

Through our teaching and research activities we maintain a commitment to the wider field of the history of medicine. Our focus is however upon history of neuroscience, a subject that is intrinsically interdisciplinary in nature. The study of the brain and the rest of the nervous system of course form part of the province of the life sciences and clinical medicine. But it also impinges on fields such as philosophy of mind and ethics. Moreover, increasingly bold claims are made for how advancing understanding of the neural basis of all aspects of behaviour must transform the methodological underpinnings of the social sciences and humanities. Through advertising and the media we are bombarded with gaudy images of the brain all seemingly designed to drive home the inescapable nature of our cerebral destiny. Part of the Centre’s mission is to seek an historical understanding of these developments.

Our hope is that this blog will help to disseminate our activities to a wider audience.

Stephen Jacyna, Centre Director.