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

Final Summaries on 20th-Century Science: Feminism and Science

The below essay was at the same time my favorite to write and my last one for my list with Susan Lindee. Concluding my readings in Cold-War Science and Feminism also brings me one step closer to my oral exams on May 6: this was the first one out of three lists that I completed reading. As of yesterday, I have finished all my lists (more essays to follow on this weblog soon).

I have some training in Gender Studies, most importantly through taking classes with Anelis Kaiser, Sabine Hark, and following the NeuroGenderings network, but taking time to (re)read and discuss the below works gave me a new perspective on my own work. I used to have problems calling myself a “feminist,” because I’ve seen a lot of unproductive deconstructivism in the public discourse. The below scholarship, however, together with my teachers and the NeuroGenderings network, offers a glimpse into the development towards productive feminist science critique that does not forget intersectionality—a scholarly project that I want to contribute to. Continue reading

Book Summaries: The Remaining 2^2*13 Items from My Brain List

In continuation of the first 27, here are the remaining 52 items of my “History of the Skull, Mind, and Brain Sciences” reading list with John Tresch. It’s a lot of stuff, and I have no idea how he and I shall have a conversation about all of these in a 60- to 90-minute Skype session tomorrow evening, when I’ll already be brain-dead from sitting and working in window-less rooms for hours. But I guess I will be flexible or, better, creatively plastic, and figure out a way to mold or not mold myself to the crazy demands of being a grad student shortly before “orals.” (Less than 4 weeks left!) Continue reading

A More Pungent Review of Ingalhalikar et al. 2014

Cordelia Fine, one of those people whose books1 you love even more after you’ve met them in person, recently contributed to two blog posts: to the Neuroskeptic‘s for PLOS and to Uta‘s for Social Minds. You don’t even have to read very closely in order to realize that she discusses the same study in both interviews: Ingalhalikar et al. 2014, carried out at Penn and reviewed by myself for credit in my neuroscience class recently. Read the three pieces and let’s talk about audience-targeted writing afterwards. (And if you want to know why many more books like Cordelia Fine’s are wanting, read the comments to Neuroskeptic’s piece on the bottom of the page.)

  1. By the way, I got my mother the German translation of Delusions of Gender for her birthday last year. []

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