Migrated to neuroanthropology.net

We’re young and still experiencing some growing pains, but we’ve gone ahead and gotten our own domain. So if you’re reading this, hopefully you’ve notice that we’re now neuroanthropology.net. WordPress is still hosting the site, but we think that the new address will help us to continue to grow ourselves as a site for exploring the many intersections between anthropology and the brain sciences.

Expression and trauma

Just a brief note. I came across this press release from the UC of Irvine, Expressing feelings after trauma not necessary, research shows, based on work by psychologist Roxane Cohen Silver. As the press release details:

Talking it out has long been considered essential to recovering from a trauma. But new research shows that expressing one’s thoughts and feelings after a traumatic event is not necessary for long-term emotional and physical health, a finding that could change the way institutions devote money and resources to mental health services following collective traumas.

The research looked at the effects of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks and found that ‘individuals who communicated their thoughts and feelings about the attacks reported more physical health problems and emotional distress over time, even after controlling for exposure to and distance from the attacks.’

What I appreciated about the release though is that Silver didn’t feel the need to propose that a uniform therapy form need replace the current orthodoxy. That is, she simply acknowledges that people are different, and that different coping and recovery techniques might work for various people. I found the lack of one-solution-fits-all rhetoric pretty appealing. Certainly, we find in different cultures that people cope in a variety of ways; imposing therapeutic techniques, rather than just creating or offering therapeutic opportunities, often is counterproductive.

100 ways to improve your brain health

One of our readers, Fiona King, sent a link to me for the page, Brain Power: 100 Ways to Keep Your Mind Healthy and Fit, by Alisa Miller. Usually, when I get this stuff, it’s someone trying to sell something, like ‘brain health’ online programs or tapes or something, but this list looks legit, and it’s not trying to plug some product (well, there’s some kind words for chai and avocado, for example, and some mild criticism of the blogger’s fuel of choice: caffeine).

The page is provided by the Online Education Database, which appears to be a network of online educational resources.

Thanks to Fiona for providing it, although the anthropologist in me is still squeamish with the notion of ‘brain health.’ I still think that it often encourages an idea that there is a ‘best way’ to have a brain, when, in fact, there are a number of ways that brains are grown, and they likely all have mixed ‘health’ consequences. But I’ll write more on that some other time…

War on the Climate?!

Charles M. Blow has an op-ed in the New York Times today entitled Farewell, Fair Weather. He opens by outlining how the United States has experienced more extreme weather than other places in recent decades. Blow then says that we are to blame, and things will probably get worse.

Okay, I’m nodding along, it’s a reasonable argument to make, and he highlights work by the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and the recent White House report (as he notes, released “years late and under pressure”). The Associated Press piece on that report had scientists’ comments like these: “a litany of bad news in store for the U.S” and “It basically says the America we’ve known we can no longer count on. It’s a pretty dramatic picture of all kinds of change rippling through natural systems across the country. And all of that has implications for people.”

Charles Blow then comes to his main argument: “This increase [in extreme weather] is deadly and disruptive — and could become economically unbearable.” Okay, I’m nodding again.

But then comes the kicker: “This surge in disasters and attendant costs is yet another reason we need to declare a coordinated war on climate change akin to the wars on drugs and terror. It’s a matter of national security.”

WTF!!!! Sorry for the language, but we all know how successful the war on drugs and the war on terror have been. Not very. But at least these have some identifiable bad guys–drug dealers and terrorists. Now we’re going to go get those evil climate changers?! Or bash the ozone layer back into submission, because it’s dared to get uppity?

Drugs, terror, the climate–these all require systemic change, and the war model just isn’t the right metaphor for that. The Us vs. Them and Brute Force assumptions don’t work well for systemic change. Obviously I think anthropology can help, but at the very least an economic model recognizes both supply and demand in the market and a political model implies the need for negotiation and consensus to help create concerted action. About the best I can say is that declaring a war might help in getting people to think about making sacrifices. But it won’t make us more secure when the change is already among us. Bush flew over New Orleans as if it were a war zone. What did that do?

On ‘uncontacted Indians’

I normally don’t mix my audiences much, writing straight-up applied anthropology over at Culture Matters and saving this blog exclusively for neuroanthropology, but there’s a fascinating story circulating based on some photographs taken from the air of ‘uncontacted’ Native Americans in Brazil. I did a couple of radio interviews yesterday on the story, so I decided to blog on it over at Culture Matters.

If you’re interested in the love of the myth that there are groups that have ‘never seen a white person’ (of course, we’re not as interested that they haven’t seen an African or a Swiss Army knife or a Rottweiler or a blender…), check it out: ‘Uncontacted Indians?!’ — contact an anthropologist!