Almost Here! The Encultured Brain: An Introduction to Neuroanthropology

It started on this blog. In 2007, Greg and I co-founded Neuroanthropology. Five years later our book is out! “The Encultured Brain” will be published by MIT Press this Friday, August 24th, 2012. You can already order itat Amazon!

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.

“The Encultured Brain” is really two books in one – the approach Greg and I have built to neuroanthropology, and other researchers using neuroanthropology in their own work. So at under $40 on Amazon, it’s a great deal!

#1: Our comprehensive take on neuroanthropology – an introduction to the field and the book, an in-depth statement on what neuroanthropology is, the evolutionary background to this approach, an outline for future research, and our own expert examples on balance and addiction.

#2: Nine case studies by other researchers, covering memory, PTSD, primates, skill acquisition, humor, autism, male vitality, smoking, and depression. These additional chapters really push “The Encultured Brain” into a new space, for they show how scholars are already using neuroanthropology to address an array of research problems.

Greg and I both hope you go order The Encultured Brain: An Introduction to Neuroanthropology

Neuroanthropology Now on Facebook

Neuroanthropology now comes in two forms on Facebook!

The Blog – With Extra Content

If you want to follow everything that we’re doing on the Neuroanthropology PLOS blog, and you also want short, fun posts that Greg and I have specifically written for Facebook, then head over to the Neuroanthropology Blog Facebook Page. I just stuck the great photo featured here up on Facebook – just a sample!

Neuroanthropology Interest Group

An active interest group – with lots of shared links and discussion – is growing quickly on Facebook. Here you can share and discover news stories and journal articles, and engage with like-minded people who want to explore the intersection of neuroscience and anthropology.

So two choices for more Neuroanthropology:

Link to Neuroanthropology Blog on Facebook

Link to Facebook Interest Group

Neuroanthropology on PLoS – Best of 2011

The last year was a great one for us over at Neuroanthropology’s new home on the Public Library of Science – our first full year as part of PLoS Blogs, a lot of great writing, and a vivid sense that anthropology online is developing into a robust arena.

Here is a quick run-down of the most read 2011 posts by Greg and by Daniel, as well as a selection of other notable posts.

Greg – Top Five

‘The last free people on the planet’
*Greg’s comprehensive take on media hype over “uncontacted” Indian tribes, and how these groups truly challenge those of us living in the West

Human (amphibious model): Living in and on the water
*How humans really do adapt to life in, on, and under the sea

David Graeber: Anthropologist, anarchist, financial analyst
*Graeber is one of the main intellectual inspirations between the Occupy movement, and an important critic of Western economic models

Slipping into psychosis: Living in the prodrome
*What it is like to live with schizophrenia, and what that tells us about ourselves

Getting around by sound: Human echolocation
*Being blind and learning to echolocate, including how the visual cortices come to handle the processing of auditory-become-visuospatial information

Daniel – Top Five

Florida Governor: Anthropology Not Needed Here
*FL Gov. Rick Scott singled out anthropology as a major that supposedly didn’t have job prospects, and that didn’t deserve state funding. Here is coverage of the vociferous reaction that shows how wrong Scott was

John Shea, Human Evolution, and Behavioral Variability – Not Behavioral Modernity
*Get your favorite – and mistaken – graph of human evolution, as well as a discussion of how a view that emphasizes variation over progress is a better fit for understanding our evolutionary history

Jared Lee Loughner – Is Mental Illness the Explanation for What He Did?
*Loughner’s vicious attack on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, and how we explain, often mistakenly, such senseless violence

Francis Fukuyama – The Origins of Political Order
*Fukyama’s new tome, where he engages culture, history, and politics and aims to create the complement to his provocative The End of History

Jared Loughner Has a Violence Problem, Not a Mental Health Problem
*An alternative account of what the real problem is behind Loughner’s terrible attack

Notable Posts

Why We Protest
*Evolution, human nature, and why we protest inequality

Blogging for promotion: An immodest proposal
*Getting academic credit for this new form of scholarship

Brand anthropology: New and improved, with extra diversity!
*How to best promote anthropology

A Vision of Anthropology Today – and Tomorrow
*After the controversy over science in anthropology, a proposal for how the field goes towards the future

Digital Anthropology: Projects and Platforms
*Discover some incredible initiatives in digital anthropology

Beyond the Drug War: Drug Policy, Social Interventions, and the Future
*Why the Drug War has failed, and more importantly, what we can do differently

Neuroanthropology.net at 1,000,000

Neuroanthropology.net just broke through the 1,000,000 visits mark! We’ve done that in three years. Our very post came in December 2007.

Even though Greg and I have moved over to Neuroanthropology PLoS, this site has continued to generate impressive traffic since September 1st. Here are some of the posts that got us over the top:

We agree it’s WEIRD, but is it WEIRD enough?
-Greg dissects the excellent study by Henrich et al. that took psychologists to task for basing claims about universal psychology using samples of college students

Inside the Mind of a Pedophile
-Absolutely incredible comments on this post, as readers continue to debate pedophilia, the people who have done it, and the children and families who have suffered from it

Forever at War: Veterans’ Everyday Battles with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
-Veterans suffering from PTSD share what it’s like to have PTSD, and what they want other vets and the broader public to know about PTSD

Life without language
-Author Susan Schaller’s work with a profoundly deaf immigrant who grew up without sign language, and an exploration of what it is like to live without language

The new linguistic relativism: Guy Deutscher in the NYTimes
-Does language shape how you think? A re-examination of language and thought

Edge: Getting at the Neuroanthropology of Morality
-The new scientists of morality are actually doing neuroanthropology, and not evolutionary psychology

The dog-human connection in evolution
-Dogs made us more human

It’s hard to believe that we’ve had 1,000,000 onsite visits in three years, plus all the other people who’ve read this site through Google reader or other rss feeds. When we started, we never expected to have such success with this site. So thank you!

And now we’re doing the same great stuff over on Neuroanthropology on PLoS. Here are five of our top posts since September 1st:

Anthropology, Science, and Public Understanding
-The American Anthropological Association dropped the word “science” from the mission statement included in the association’s long-term plan, and the media and blogosphere erupted. Here’s the post that kicked off Neuroanthropology’s extensive coverage of the controversy

An Interview with Mark Changizi: Culture Harnessing the Brain
-Cognitive scientist Mark Changizi gives us his inside view of how culture and brain evolved together, with an inside glimpse into his forthcoming book Harnessed: How Language and Music Mimicked Nature and Transformed Ape to Man

Food for thought: Cooking in human evolution
-Did cooking make us human, giving us the necessary energy to have super brains?

Anthropology, Science, and the AAA Long-Range Plan: What Really Happened
-The New York Times portrayed anthropologists as split into warring tribes over the word “science.” Here’s what actually happened with the AAA controversy

The Culture of Poverty Debate
-The controversial Culture of Poverty idea has made a comeback. Here’s coverage of the good and bad about the media reports and research on the renewed look at the links between culture and poverty

Great New Stuff over at PLoS Neuroanthropology

I hope our regular readers have moved over to PLoS Neuroanthropology. But just in case you haven’t, I’ve posted some of our recent posts from over there below. And for those of you new to neuroanthropology, welcome! Here’s a taste of what we do.

But one thing first. If you like getting your internet through a feed, please update the rss subscription for PLoS Neuroanthropology> Here’s the actual address in case you need it: http://feeds.plos.org/plos/blogs/neuroanthropology

Popular Posts

An Interview with Mark Changizi: Culture Harnassing the Brain
*Our most popular post has been an interview with cognitive scientist Mark Changizi, who has some provocative ideas about how culture evolved by adapting itself to our brains.

Food for Thought: Cooking in Human Evolution
*Richard Wrangham, Heribert Watzke, Marlene Zuk and the trade-offs between big brains and big teeth and guts, and how humans overcome that trade-off through cooking, a diversified diet, and more – all that in another very popular post.

Life in the Dark
*Another post that people have enjoyed covers how much we’ve changed our nighttime environment through human lighting, and the effects this can have on sleep, vision, and behavior. It also presents the work of photographer Peter DiCampo and his work on dark photos as activism

Culture of Poverty Series

The Culture of Poverty Debate

The Culture of Poverty Debate Continued

Culture of Poverty: From Analysis to Policy

*The controversial concept of a “Culture of Poverty” appeared in a front-page NY Times article, as well as in a prominent collection from sociologists this summer on Reconsidering the Culture of Poverty. That kicked off a series of posts on the Culture of Poverty. The first covered the debate and critiquing the NYT article for how it represented culture and poverty. The second presented a range of critical reactions to the re-emergence of this old idea, before advancing an idea about “cultural inequality” to go along with notions of structural inequality. The third focused on mistaken notions of culture, and what we might actually do in terms of ideas and policy in relation to culture, poverty, and behavior.

Announcing the Notre Dame Hub: Taking Students’ Academic Lives Online

The Hub @ Notre Dame is now live! The Hub takes students’ academic lives online, providing a platform for exploring ideas, presenting their work, and social networking within an academic community.

I initiated this project in the spring of 2009 at Notre Dame, so it is wonderful to see it come to fruition. Here is the opening to my original Hub Proposal:

Students today can share their personal lives on online sites like Facebook and MySpace. They do not have a comparable site for their academic lives. Through the creation of the Notre Dame Hub, students will be able to share their research and artistic creations, reflect on what they are learning, and discuss new ideas and opportunities.

The Hub will offer that through a centralized online architecture, a core group of students in charge of managing the site and handling editorial responsibility, a faculty advisory group, and content created by students from across the Notre Dame campus.

To get a full description of the Hub Project, including downloading the Hub proposal and examples of the Hub in action, head over to the full PLoS description of the Notre Dame Hub.

Daniel Lende: Looking for Graduate Students

Since I am now at the University of South Florida, I can finally mentor some graduate students! I encourage people to apply to the graduate program in anthropology here. USF accepts students at both the masters and the Ph.D. level. If you’re going to start at the Ph.D. level, your masters does not have to be in anthropology.

My research interests fall into three broad areas: neuroanthropology, medical anthropology, and applied social science. Most of my long-term research has focused on substance use and abuse, including the neuroanthropology of addiction, risk and preventive factors for drug use, and the cultural moderation of substance use.

In recent years I’ve broadened that focus to include research on alcohol use, video games, stress, and PTSD. I might also develop a project on frontotemporal dementia. I have also done work on breast cancer and embodiment, new media & technology, and public anthropology. I use both quantitative and qualitative methods, and advocate combining theory-driven work with community-based research.

You can read more about my projects on the Neuroanthropology PLoS site. And here is my departmental website, where you can access my CV. If you want to contact me, please send me an email at dlende at usf dot edu.

The USF anthropology department emphasizes both theory and applied work within anthropology, and uses an interdisciplinary approach in training and mentoring students. Here is a condensed excerpt from the Department’s Mission:

Anthropology is the comparative and global study of humanity which addresses all aspects of human experience. We are committed to understanding global diversity through community-based applied research that is holistic and interdisciplinary.

Here is one of the main things to emphasize about our graduate program:

The Graduate Program at USF aims to develop creative scholars and scientists who will apply their knowledge and skills to contemporary human problems.

The graduate program has both biological and cultural tracks, and includes a concentration in biocultural medical anthropology. You can see my syllabus for my course on Biocultural Medical Anthropology here. You can also get a dual degree, with an MA in anthropology and an MPH in public health.

Click here for information on how to apply to the USF anthropology program. And here is information on financial assistance and scholarships. Applications are due December 15th, 2010.

I advocate that graduate students find both good mentors and a department that broadly fits their interests. The USF anthropology faculty has a range of expertise and interests that are a great complement to what I do.

Faculty specializations include medical anthropology, human biology, urban policy and community development, educational anthropology, media studies, ethnic policies and heritage, economic development, immigration, archaeology, cultural resource management, gender, environment, applied linguistics, and archaeological science. Geographic specializations emphasize the Caribbean, Latin America, United States, and Sub-Saharan Africa.

You can find out more about the major research themes of the department here, including biocultural dimensions of health and illness, material culture, community identity and heritage, communications and education, sustainability and development, and the social and cultural construction of race, ethnicity and gender.

USF includes a range of departments and affiliations that also complement what the anthro faculty and I do. USF Health includes programs in medicine, nursing, and public health. There is a strong department of psychology, a concentration in neuroscience research, and a broad array of other excellent programs in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Locally USF has affiliations with the Florida Mental Health Institute, the Moffitt Cancer Center, and the Veterans’ Hospital.

Please email me at dlende at usf dot edu if you have questions!