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Archive for January, 2009

The Foundation for Applied Psychiatric Anthropology

Posted by dlende on January 31, 2009

fapaThe Foundation for Applied Psychiatric Anthropology (FAPA) is a new organization founded by the anthropologist and social worker Rebecca Lester and the psychiatrist Davinder Hayreh.

The Foundation “promotes the use of ethnographic research and mixed-methods approaches to improve understandings and treatments of mental illness, broadly defined. FAPA facilitates collaboration among scholars and practitioners who wish to integrate clinical work with ethnographic research and advocacy initiatives related to culture and mental health.”

FAPA also offers reduced-fee psychotherapy services to residents in the Saint Louis, Missouri area. To find out more, check out FAPA’s description of its clinical services and approach.

Rebecca Lester is a professor of anthropology at Washington University in Saint Louis. You can read about her treatment philosophy. For researchers, Rebecca has put together a great list of books in psychiatric anthropology.

And here’s Davinder Hayreh’s LinkedIn profile. He is presently nearing the finish of his residency in psychiatry at Barnes-Jewish Hosptial in Saint Louis.

For more information, you can contact them at office @ [remove spaces].

Posted in Links, Mental Illness, Psychological anthropology | 4 Comments »

Alvaro Fernandez and Brain Plasticity

Posted by dlende on January 31, 2009

It’s not the best quality video ever, but it’s great to see Alvaro Fernandez – of SharpBrains fame – in action in this clip Amazing Findings in Neuroplasticity. Quite a good overview in five minutes.

Greg has covered neuroplasticity before, as well as the research on cab drivers.

Over at SharpBrains you can check out Brain Plasticity: How Learning Changes the Brain and The Ten Habits of Highly Effective Brains.

SharpBrains has its own YouTube Sharpbrains channel, with nine other videos for your viewing pleasure.

Posted in Video | 3 Comments »

Grand Stone

Posted by dlende on January 30, 2009

grandson_menhirTwo carnivals are out.

Grand Rounds brings together the best medical blogging of the past week, and this time it’s at Chronic Babe where it goes totally babelicious.

From tampons to breast exams it’s got it all. But you can even find Sharp Brains’ argument that brain training is heading for a productive tipping point.

Four Stone Hearth rounds up anthropology, and A Very Remote Period Indeed brings us the New Hope edition.

One piece I enjoyed was a summary of arguments about the Out of Africa hypothesis over at Remote Central. But there’s plenty other stones to explore!

Posted in Links | Leave a Comment »

Wednesday Round Up #48

Posted by dlende on January 28, 2009

Last week we did a special theme – Obama is a neuroanthropologist – but this week it’s back to normal. I’ll cover some things that might already be two weeks old (gasp!), but it’s all for a good cause – your own reading pleasure.

So this time we have some favorites, then PTSD, some anthropology, some brain stuff, decision making, and fighting inequality. Yes, lots of categories – I’m catching up… Enjoy!

Top of the List

Dennis Overbye, Elevating Science, Elevating Democracy
I liked this essay, for its examination of science as both a search for truth and a pragmatic endeavor that also happens to teach values

Jane Brody, Babies Know: A Little Dirt Is Good for You
Getting down and dirty for a better immunological system. I was just talking about this in my med anthro class, contrasting the science with people who are obsessed with cleanliness.

Jennifer Ruark, In the Thrall of Neuroscience
Chronicle of Higher Education piece from December – finally found a complete online version. All about the new interdisciplinary interest and collaboration with neuroscientists. I even get a quote!

Ed Yong, Pre-emptive Blood Flow Raises Big Questions about fMRI
Cool study about blood going to parts of the brain in anticipation of activation


After reading my students’ great post on veterans and post-traumatic stress disorder, I came across some PTSD readings to share.

Anxiety Insights, Mind-Body Skills Reduce PTSD in War-Traumatized Children
“biofeedback, meditation, guided imagery and self-expression (in words, drawings, and movement) produce lasting changes in levels of stress, flashbacks, nightmares and symptoms of withdrawal and numbing in adolescents living in a region of conflict.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Wednesday Round Up | 1 Comment »

The Commons

Posted by dlende on January 27, 2009

A big hat-tip to Keith Hart, where you can go explore his ideas about the common wealth.

Want some online commons? Try Flickr’s The Commons public photo project. Or Savage Minds’ arguments for Open Access Open Source scholarly material. Or the Opensource Handbook of Neuroscience.

You can also read about the classic Science article by Garrett Hardin, The Tragedy of the Commons. And explore more broadly at

Posted in general | 1 Comment »

Forever at War: Veterans’ Everyday Battles with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder

Posted by dlende on January 26, 2009

ptsd-iwo-jima“To this day, every time I smell firecrackers or fire arms being shot, I feel like I am right back there. All I have to do is close my eyes and I see the whole scenario over and over again. I can’t erase it.”

Hundreds of thousands of US veterans are not able to leave the horrors of war on the battlefield. They bring the combat home and re-experience it in their minds each and every day, no matter how much time has passed.

“I don’t like people. I just live my life.”

Many PTSD veterans live a life riddled with divorce, unemployment, and loneliness because they are unable to form lasting social networks within civilian life. It is not uncommon for a war veteran plagued with PTSD to desire a solitary life in the mountains. One informant described Montana as the ideal locale – far away and quiet.

“I should have buried him.”

This veteran is still tormented by the fact he did not give an honorable burial to a fellow soldier. He knows he would have met a similar fate if he tried to leave his foxhole; yet his inability to act haunts his memory. He asks himself everyday why he didn’t even try to honor his fallen comrade. He also has never been able to justify why he wasn’t the soldier left unburied on that remote Pacific island.

“I didn’t even have the motivation to kill myself.”

Many of these men and women believe their situation will never improve. Some contemplate suicide as their only relief from the symptoms of PTSD. A number of the veterans we spoke with had thought about or even tried to end their own lives. They also participate in risky activities, threatening their life in a deliberate yet indirect way.

“I always feel like there is someone behind me – following me.”

Being on edge is the only way to survive in combat. Unfortunately, many PTSD veterans are unable to readjust within the civilian world. Everyday life becomes a battlefield.

Something as mundane as walking through a crowded grocery store aisle can be a source of intense anxiety for a veteran suffering from PTSD. Overwhelmed by a feeling that the shoppers behind them are enemies, PTSD veterans always feel as if they are under attack. A trigger as simple as the clashing of shopping carts can make them jump in fear of an imminent explosion. They are forever at war.


Over the course of 4 months, South Bend veterans with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) have revealed their daily realities to us, five undergraduates at the University of Notre Dame. In conjunction with a course taught by Dr. Daniel Lende entitled Researching Disease: Methods in Medical Anthropology, we have engaged in community-based research with members and supporters of PTSD, Vets, Inc. Here, with the approval and encouragement of these vets, we seek to give their experiences a well-deserved voice.

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Posted in Applied Anthropology, Medical anthropology, Mental Illness, Stress, Violence | Tagged: , , | 24 Comments »

More Than A Waiting Room

Posted by dlende on January 25, 2009

main-waiting-room1By Jillian Brems, Erin Brennan, Katrina Epperson, Jordan Pearce & Anna Weber

“I just don’t want this to be the visit that changes my life,” said the middle-aged woman waiting for a mammogram at the Regional Breast Care Center. For an estimated 240,510 women diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007, their visit to the waiting room did change their lives. This is the concern that patients and their friends, families, and significant others face every time they visit the center.

This feeling of stress and anxiety isn’t just for first-time visitors either. Even women who have had many mammograms worry before a visit because, as one patient put it, “You just never know.” Women are forced to come to terms with the uncertainty factor when they enter the hospital clinic. “It’s the results I’m absolutely terrified of,” another patient said, “not the procedure.”

During this past fall the five of us—all anthropology students at the University of Notre Dame—evaluated the waiting rooms at the Regional Breast Care Center (RBCC). It has been nine years since the waiting room at RBCC last changed, and our ethnographic research focused on determining how to better meet the needs of all who use the space. The director and staff had basic questions whether the waiting rooms still fulfilled the diverse needs of their patients and those who accompany them, and what new things could be done to improve patient satisfaction and comfort.

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Posted in Applied Anthropology, Medical anthropology | 7 Comments »

Call for papers for fellowship in Cultural Psychiatry

Posted by gregdowney on January 24, 2009

It’s not exactly neuroanthropology, but if you’re one of those energetic psychology-neurology-anthropology-psychiatry hybrid grad students who contacts us from time to time, you may want to consider applying for the following fellowhip. I got the announcement through the Society for Psychological Anthropology:

Society for the Study of Psychiatry and Culture
Call for Papers: Charles Hughes Fellowship in Cultural Psychiatry

The Society for the Study of Psychiatry and Culture announces its 8th annual call for papers for the Charles Hughes Fellowship in Cultural Psychiatry, an annual award presented to a graduate student who has an interest in and commitment to cultural psychiatry and mental health. Graduate students in the social sciences who are interested in competing for this award should submit an original scholarly paper on a topic in cultural psychiatry, along with a CV and a letter of recommendation from his/her department or committee chair, to:

Joan D. Koss-Chioino, Ph.D.
2753 Bon Haven Lane
Annapolis, MD 21401
or Email all 3 documents to: joan [dot] koss@asu [dot] edu

The deadline is February 28, 2009. The Society will pay partial travel costs for the awardee to present his or her paper at its annual meeting to be held May 15 -17,2009 in San Francisco, California.

For more information, contact Dr. Joan Koss-Chioino at joan [dot] koss@asu [dot] edu.

Posted in general | Leave a Comment »

Just a Place to Talk: Women and HIV/AIDS

Posted by dlende on January 24, 2009

By Christine, Dorian, Kristine, Tom & Vanessa
Nine months ago, Maria birthed a healthy baby girl. Just two days later, the joyous ecstasy of new life quickly led to a striking reality: Maria’s husband was diagnosed with HIV.

“He thought I was going to leave him, but of course I wouldn’t. We’re in this together.” At the time, she didn’t know quite how personal her statement would become. Just three months later Maria and her newborn daughter were also diagnosed with HIV.

“Initially I was able to handle it in the moment, but then it hits. In time, it’s become much more difficult to deal with.”

Maria certainly feels stigmatized and has refrained from telling her other children. In this Midwestern town, the needs of Maria (a pseudonym) and other women with HIV are ripe with concern and lack of viable opportunity. She told us, “What I, and other women need, is just a place to talk.”

Currently there are HIV/AIDS support groups offered locally through a community center. Our community-based student project, focused on understanding and empowering women suffering from HIV/AIDS locally, brought us to these groups. What we found was a support group for homosexual men that did not offer the support women need.

Through research concerning sexual orientation and HIV/AIDS, we discovered that homosexual men and heterosexual women have different coping mechanisms and symptoms. Women experience more illness as a result to their HIV/AIDS status than homosexual men. They also are more likely to need social support to deal with the pain and fear of being HIV/AIDS positive. (Mosack 2009:137) Although the group that exists can be literally defined as a place to talk, it may not be the best place to be heard and understood as a woman.

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Posted in Applied Anthropology, Gender, Medical anthropology | 6 Comments »

What do these enigmatic women want?

Posted by gregdowney on January 24, 2009

25desire_6002In this week’s The Times Magazine of The NY Times, Daniel Bergner has a piece on women’s sexuality and research that’s already in preprint causing a bit of controversy as well as a convulsion of 1950s era humor in the online response. The title, ‘What do women want?’, that nugget of Freudian wonder, no doubt will raise the readership, as will the pictures of models simulating states of arousal (Greg Mitchell is in a bit of snit about them in, Coming Attraction: Preview of ‘NYT Magazine’ With Semi-Shocking Sex Images on Sunday. ‘Semi-Shocking’? I can imagine how that goes… ‘Are you SHOCKED by these photos?’ ‘Well, I’m at least SEMI-shocked, yes!’).

In particular, Bergner gives us thumbnail portraits of women engaged in sex research: Meredith Chivers of Queens University (Kingston, Ontario), Lisa Diamond of the University of Utah, and Marta Meana from UNLV, although there’s also commentary from Julia Heiman, the Director of the Kinsey Institute, and others. As with so much of contemporary science writing, we get researchers as characters, with quirky personal descriptions and accounts of meeting the author, each one standing in for a particular perspective in current scientific debates.

Chivers is portrayed as arguing that women are existentially divided ‘between two truly separate, if inscrutably overlapping, systems, the physiological and the subjective,’ Diamond is made to stand in for the ‘female desire may be dictated… by intimacy, by emotional connection,’ and Meana stands in for the argument that women are narcissists desiring to submit. Whether or not these are accurate portrayals—and they might be—the model is prevalent in science writing: get characters to represent lines of thinking, even though many of us are not so clearly signed on with a single theoretical team. Here, we know the score: Diamond arguing women want intimacy, Meana that they want a real man to take them, and Chivers that women want it all, even if they don’t realize it and contradict themselves.

The irony is that, with such a tangle, the conclusion is foreordained: women will seem enigmatic, inconsistent, and irremediably opaque. As I’ll suggest in this, I think that the conclusion is built into the way the question is being asked. If a similar question were asked about nearly any group, in nearly any domain of complex human behaviour, and then a simple single answer were demanded, the questioner would face nearly identical frustration.

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Posted in Emotion, Gender, Relationships, Sex | Tagged: , | 42 Comments »


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