The past few decades have seen an explosion of scientific and medical research into the brain. With advances in digital imaging technologies and the enhancement of methods for the study of biochemical and electrical processes, academic and popular literatures are increasingly seeking to understand the relationship between the brain and the human. New forms of professional clinical and therapeutic practices are drawing on these bodies of knowledge to change and augment their practices.
Social sciences have sought new articulations of the relationship between human embodiment, society and material conditions. Publications now abound on such neologisms of neurolaw, neuroeconomics and neuropolitics. In addition to the creation of humanities inflected subjects such as neuroethics and neurophilosophy, studies about the human brain are rapidly altering the ways in which the human is understood in theories of affect, culture and society.
The Medical Humanities project at WiSER is particularly interested in neuroplasticity; the notion that mental activity (including thought, feeling, attention, experience) creates new neural structures. This reverses the previous assumption that biology precedes consciousness or mind. And we are interested in the ways in which the neurosciences influence and alter social and cultural theory; reframing questions of the unconscious, embodiment, metaphor, language and value for human life in society and ecology.
The main activity in this area of Medical Humanities is a NEURO reading group to start in October 2014. For more information or to join the reading group, please contact Dhammamegha at Annie.Leatt@wits.ac.za.