Once more, I organized a panel for the History of Science Society Annual Meeting, this time in collaboration with my friend Yize Hu. It will be a fantastic opportunity to discuss how 20th-century practitioners perceived the potential and perils of hormones in Japan, China, central Europe, Scotland, and the U.S. Join us if you can!
The overall panel:
Glands and Hormones: 20th-Century Hopes and Fears across the Northern Hemisphere
Research on glandular secretions and their metabolic impact transfigured the medico-scientific understanding of the body in the late 19th century. In 1905, British physiologist Ernest H. Starling (1866–1927) coined the word “hormone,” an umbrella term for secretions from various parts of the body. In the subsequent decades, glandular science flourished and fueled a refashioning of concepts such as aging, growth, reproduction, and sex/gender. This panel sheds light on various ways in which the hormonal view of the body impacted 20th-century science in Asia, Europe, and North America. What role did glands and hormones fulfill in scientific and social lives at different times and places? What hopes and fears were associated with interfering in the hormonal body? To what extent were hormone-related practices and theories mobile across space and time? The papers exemplify multiple connotations of hormones: they could be both promises and threats to human health, as well as disruptors or justifications of the contemporary social order. Furthermore, due to the double role of hormones as actively sexing/gendering (through their metabolic function) and passively sexed/gendered substances (through social ascriptions), hormonal theories and practices transcended the binaries between nature and nurture, and between the physical and the social world.
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 →
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 →
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.
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.
Let me provide you with one more summary of a brownbag lunch talk at Penn’s Center for Cognitive Neuroscience. Last December, I attended the talk and I found myself once more building my own sets of questions on top of those the presenter asked and tried to answer. The speaker, Allyson Mackey from the Gabrieli Lab at MIT, is one more scientist who is employing their academic work to tackle social problems: her research on plasticity in the developing brain explores the intersection between income inequality and education. More specifically, she investigates into individual differences in academic outcome as a response to targeted cognitive training, and the associated brain structures and functions.
Using imaging methods such as event-related and resting-state fMRI as well as DTI, Mackey investigates at the cellular level into plasticity that is induced by learning in the highly composite environments that we call schools. Her two major questions are: How does the brain shape learning? (Or: At what age are cognitive skills most malleable?) And: How does learning shape the brain? (Or: How does the brain change as students learn new cognitive skills?) Continue reading →
HSS 2014 was a phenomenal conference, and I have to admit that I liked my own panel best. My fellow panelists contributed fascinating papers and were just the nicest people to learn from (and with). It was a hitherto unprecedented opportunity to talk brains for me, having five brain papers on the same panel. We saw that several topics kept coming up (such as the economization of brains or minds and the animal/human divide, for instance). I gave you the panel information before; here is what made it to Twitter: Continue reading →