How Testosterone Allowed Norman Geschwind to Bridge an Intellectual Century

The Center for the History of Medicine at the Francis A. Countway Library in Boston is magnificent! But very cold. I guess I brought the wrong clothes, being spoiled by Philly summers (or what shall I call it?).

I have been here for three weeks now, and will stay for one more. I am slowly making way through Norman Geschwind’s papers. Geschwind and his colleagues’ theory from the early 1980s is quite (in)famous among science critics.

Frankly, Geschwind and his colleagues almost designed a Grand Unified Theory of humanity there. The level of testosterone in prenatal life, so they suggested, affects the asymmetrical maturation of a human brain, and by extension one’s immune system, sexual orientation, language abilities, handedness and much more. Continue reading

Check out My Next Talk

Not sure how far the news have spread that Penn’s Digital Humanities Forum, with a nice amount of extra money, recently became the Price Lab for Digital Humanities. On September 16, I’ll be giving a short talk on the knowledge I acquired during my Price-Lab-funded trip to HILT this summer. The talk mainly concerns how I plan to use textmining with R for my project on the history of adult neurogenesis.

DH and Me

I’m in Indianapolis for HILT 2015. The digital-humanities workshop on “Large-Scale Text Analysis with R” sounded as if it can help me to finally surmount the obstacle of several thousands of neuroscientific articles I will have to analyze in order to continue my project on adult neurogenesis. Mark Algee-Hewitt from Stanford’s Department of English is an awesome instructor and thus far, I’ve understood everything and was even able to ask a not-so-stupid question during the first session. (Why does R return “character” when I ask about the class of a vector whose contents are characters—and not “vector”?)

I know I promised to continue this post a long time ago—odds are that it will happen soon.

Privacy Lost—SCAN Put Me on Youtube

I just returned from India a few days ago (see my new Department picture) and getting back to serious academic work is pretty rough after more than three weeks out in the wild … So I just spent a few minutes procrastinating and googling myself. Doing so, I found a youtube video of my short presentation at the First Annual SCAN Retreat. I should watch the video and use it to improve on my English pronunciation, I guess.

P.S. I also found the SCAN certificate in my mailbox when I returned. I’m completely done with classes now, scientific and non-scientific!
P.P.S. Just realized they also put up a testimonial, taken from an email I sent to Martha after my HSS panel last November. I seem to be a quite popular SCAN graduate.

Upcoming Talk at the HSS Annual Meeting

Join me and many other scholars in history of science / STS for the annual meeting of the History of Science Society in Chicago, Nov. 6–9. I will be presenting new insights into my ANG project of which I will provide a summary here as well. But even more important than my talk is the rest of my panel (in this case “my” in two meanings of the word, since I am both the organizer and a presenter): Continue reading

There WAS Plasticity in Brain Sex Difference Research!

JAS-Med 2014 at Baltimore was a fantastic conference. The papers were of really high quality, the talks engaging, and the attendees kind and curious.

As you may have assumed already, I presented parts of my research project on the intersection of adult neurogenesis (ANG) research and the neuroscientific quest for sex/gender differences in brains. As mentioned earlier, it is puzzling to read the standard account of ANG history—or, more broadly, of brain plasticity—and then realize that none of these ideas of malleable brains have had influence on rigid neural and social sex/gender classifications, as Rebecca Jordan-Young, Catherine Vidal, Cordelia Fine et al., and others argue. Continue reading

Neuro, Brain Storm, Plastic Reason: When Did Brains Become Malleable, and for Whom?

I am puzzled by comparing three pieces on later 20th-century neuroscience I read recently (in chronological order): Rebecca Jordan-Young’s Brain Storm, Nikolas Rose and Joelle Abi-Rached’s Neuro, as well as Tobias Rees’s dissertation Plastic Reason. The historical arguments, despite similar periodization, don’t seem to go together very well—to phrase it mildly. Continue reading