The “Truth” about Handedness?

By virtue of my profession, I do not believe in scientific truths that are independent of space and time. Nonetheless, while I was nearing the completion of my dissertation (aka the first draft of my book project), I had to answer frequently to questions such as the following: Is there a true theory of handedness? What does handedness truly tell us about the brain, mind, and person? Is there any truth in the stereotypes associated with handedness? My highly contingent and situated answers to questions of this sort are the following (copied from my final dissertation chapter): Continue reading

Neuroskeptic’s Patient-Researcher Perspective

Neuroskeptic just published a very interesting post asking: What Can “Lived Experience” Teach Neuroscientists? It’s a short reflection on whether or not neuroscientific research on depression (for instance) should include more patient perspectives. Being very up-front about a personal history of depression, Neuroskeptic points to a problem that sounds almost like the barber paradox. (Read it.)

Two thoughts on that: Continue reading

M.A. Thesis: Functional Magnetic Resonance Phrenology?

In the process of revising a paper on F.J. Gall’s conception of sex/gender and the status of sexuality in his so-called organological doctrine, I reread two German articles by Frank Stahnisch (who is a great scholar and an incredibly helpful person): “Über die Natur des weiblichen Gehirns” and “Über die neuronale Natur des Weiblichen.”1 I was reminded how beautiful it is to read—and write—German texts.2 Apart from very few long emails, the last substantial thing I have written in the tongue of the umlauts is my M.A. thesis. I won’t publish it, but it seems a shame not to make it accessible. I included an English description of its argument in my very first blog post. Continue reading

Inspired Part 2: Are Imaging Technologies Enslaving because They Have Lost Their Romantic Ambiguity?

I promised to share more thoughts on Tresch’s fabulous work and Vinsel’s inspiring blog series. One topic that keeps coming up is the distinction between “tools” and “machines.” I am not sure if pursuing this road will lead to any illuminating insight, but since it keeps occupying my thoughts and is so well in line with what is happening in the realm of neuroscientific imaging technologies, I thought I’d give it some more consideration. Continue reading

Hello World

For a start of my blog (how did this weird abbreviation of “weblog” come about in the first place?), I want to share the main ideas of my Master’s thesis, which I handed in on Maundy Thursday this year. My thesis consists of roughly 80 pages German text dealing with the question whether fMRI research can legitimately be reproached for being “a new phrenology” or not. To tackle this extensive problem, I narrowed it down to the question in how far initial fMRI1 research in the late 1990s searching for sex/gender differences in human brains was similar to early phrenology dealing with the same question. Specifically, I concentrated on Franz Joseph Gall (1758–1828), who put “organology,” as he himself called it, into practice. Gall and later phrenologists tried to localize mental faculties in the brain by palpating skulls, while fMRI tries to situate specific functions in several brain areas by scanning people’s heads. Continue reading