Thursday, March 30, 2017

Genuine interdisciplinarity in neuroscience research

I have been reading Neuro by Nik Rose and Joelle Abi-Rached. Like me (see previous post), they hope that neuroscience can become a genuinely human science. I like their notion of 'critical friendship' between social sciences and neuroscience. Some of the proper motivation for this friendship may be to share the money going into neuroscience research. It may also be important not to minimise the degree to which neuroscience funding is being wasted on the unattainable. However, there is a need for genuine interdisciplinarity to take the neuroscience research agenda forward. As they say:-
[W]e should not be surprised to find, in contemporary neurosciences, all the features of inflated expectations, exaggerated claims, hopeful anticipations, and unwise predictions that have been so well analyzed in other areas of contemporary biotechnologies.

Social sciences have nothing to fear about the 'neuro-turn' in modern culture (see previous post) and polarised attitudes in the debate are unhelpful (see another previous post). Pressures to translate research findings to clinical applications are also creating perverse effects. To quote again from Neuro:-
Neuroscientists might well be advised to be frank about the conceptual and empirical questions that translation entails, rather than suggesting that the outcome of a series of experiments with fruit flies or feral rats has something to tell us about human violence, or that brain scans of individuals when they are exposed to images of differently colored faces in an fMRI machine has something to tell us about the neurobiological basis of racism.

I also agree that the neuro-turn may be affecting how we view ourselves but that it "is too early to diagnose the emergence of a full-blown ‘neurobiological complex,’ or a radical shift from psy- to neuro-". Critical psychiatry has something to offer to the Neuroscience Project at the Royal College of Psychiatrists (see previous post).


cobweb said...

When researchers and practitioners begin to describe a project as 'exciting' as in the presentation by the college of psychiatrists, those potentially on the receiving end need to be involved in what is being described as potential 'treatments' for mental health issues. Too many horrors have been the result of enthusiastic psychiatrists with power and essentially, funding and backing of institutions and politicians.. Neuropsychiatry is being used already to experiment on people receiving therapy - including, incredibly, that based on so called attachment theory. A therapy supposedly based on human interaction between therapist and client. It seems to attract more credibility if brain research is mapped on. The details are puzzling - how would clients be given information about the 'therapy'in order to give informed consent? Would they be given a brain scan at intervals throughout - how would that effect the process? How could the scans detect what is effecting the brain -people do not live in scanners they have often complex lives. What sort of relationship would be possible in such a set up - what type of brain image is the desired outcome? As all humans are different and unique how is that decided? It smacks of brain washing. It is just ridiculous to imagine the neuropsychiatry group is going to allow any funding to be diverted into social care. The status gap will attract trainees who can cope with the science, into neuropsychiatry, not humanistic therapy. There is a small cohort of psychotherapists working in the NHS - they will probably be sidelined into minor projects or leave after training on NHS users to practice privately. Finally how could the population of people who are labelled with various diagnoses all be brain scanned and what apart from the 'relationship' with a 'skilled and empathetic therapist' would be the 'prescription' should the therapy fail...more drugs, more new and 'exciting' ECT, more brain stimulation techniques to be developed? What is to be recorded on individuals medical notes? Abnormal brain?

Anonymous said...

@cobweb. Liked this. Spot on. But, even if one lives in a scanner it gives no useful information. It gives information about combination of scanner and him.

Unknown said...

Mental impairment must be treated. It may lead to crime too. Nice informative writeup.
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