What Kind of Sex Do We Need in Neuroimaging?


(”Like Dancers in a Line” by Viewminder, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Four members of the NeuroGenderings network, Gina Rippon, Rebecca Jordan-Young, Anelis Kaiser, and Cordelia Fine, recently published a fabulous piece on “Recommendations for Sex/Gender Neuroimaging Research: Key Principles and Implications for Research Design, Analysis, and Interpretation” in Frontiers of Human Neuroscience.

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Somebody Help Us Explain What Embedded Statistical Technologies Achieve in fMRI Research

I promised to write more about my thoughts on how the question of what software is—and does—relates to fMRI research. Tonight seems the perfect time to do so, as I just received feedback on my paper proposal. Besides that, my calendar tells me that the following days got assigned to other projects of mine, so I’d better use this rainy night to share my ideas with you. (I divided the remaining days between the three final written assignments for this term; and, as a colleague told me yesterday, I did so in a stereotypically German manner of accuracy.) Continue reading

Why an fMRI Scanner Can’t Answer the Neuroscientist’s Question

This week’s Monday Workshop featured Ann Johnson and her stimulating presentation “Code is Fluid: Mapping the Circulation of Computational Fluid Dynamics Among Knowledge Communities.” As one might assume, she introduced her concept of “Knowledge Communities” (KCs) through a case study on computational fluid dynamics (CFD). Her fascinating integration of history and philosophy of science is methodologically of great interest to anybody studying the neurosciences (and so much more), and with regard to content, it is the computational part (software, models and animations) which struck me as relevant to my project. Continue reading

Food Co-Op and Instruments

I love how having a “real life outside the Department”1 contributes to my work-related ideas. Most of the time, however, they remain work-related ideas, and cannot be transformed into actual reading and writing, since what I am currently working on are mainly the assigned readings for my weekly classes. Be that as it may, living the “real life” meant attending Mariposa‘s new member orientation on Sunday, where I found myself sitting next to a Penn teacher (whose name I will not tell, since I am not sure if she wants the world to know that we met, and that it happened in this specific location). Before the two-hour ideological indoctrination started, we spent a few minutes talking about our work and mutual acquaintances in the HSS Department. As it turned out, she had co-authored several papers on the history of arts and sciences with Penn HSS faculty. Thanks to our introduction-to-rule at Mariposa, I found out her name (as well as gender self-identification and food co-op experience), and was able to google her department website in the evening. Continue reading

Follow Up …

… on incompatible systems: Our brain is much more complex than the apparatuses we use to assess it. What if fMRI and brain are just like course list (where I appeared as “registered”) and PennInTouch (where I registered as “audit” for the course)? It is pretty likely that we would not just continue to be nescient, but generate false knowledge.1 Anyhow, I think this point is very clear: If it happens to paper and digital databases, it can as well happen to neuronal systems and these noisy machines. Sadly, I will not take part in the class; luckily, however, I was able to communicate it—I am wondering how neurons / neuronal networks / brain areas might try to tell us we are in the wrong, when in fact they only audit a cognitive process while we think they are about to actively take part in it in order to receive credit for it. Poor neurons! Continue reading

Localizing “Culture” in the Brain

Today was the second day of classes. Everybody still can hardly wrap their head around the fact that the new semester started before Labor Day … To me, however, it already feels like I have been at the Department for weeks: So much talking, advising, reading, having dinner and coffee together, so many skilled faculty members (with a sense of humor!!), and, of course, amazingly helpful and friendly fellow graduate students. Since I will almost certainly want to write a lot about the readings for my courses later (three to five standard history of science/technology works plus primary sources and articles each week), I want to seize today’s opportunity and share some earlier thoughts stimulated during a discussion in January: One of my professors mentioned a conference on evolutionary psychology he had attended years ago where a research group presented a paper1 explaining that they had managed to locate culture in the brain by using fMRI. Wow! How could anyone ever define “culture” precisely enough in order to allow setting up an experiment on the brain’s reactions when it is opposed to culture, let alone localize (material foundations of) culture in the brain?! Continue reading