Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Neuroculture

Abstract

Neuroscience addresses questions that, if resolved, will reveal aspects of our individuality. Therefore neuroscientific knowledge is not solely constrained within laboratories, but readily captures the attention of the public at large. Ideas, concepts and images in neuroscience widely circulate in culture and are portrayed in literature, film, works of art, the mass media and commercial products, therefore shaping social values and consumer practices. The interaction between art and science offers an opportunity to make the scientific community and the public aware of the social and ethical implications of the scientific advances in neuroscience.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

Figure 1: Helen Chadwick (1991) Self-portrait.
Figure 2: fMRI images in visual art.
Figure 3: Pharmacopoeia.
Figure 4: Representation of the triangular relationship between scientists, arts and the media, and the public.

References

  1. 1

    Anker, S. & Frazzetto, G. Neuroculture, an exhibition at the Westport Arts Center, Westport, CT US. Neuroculture [online], (2006).

    Google Scholar 

  2. 2

    Frazzetto, G. Neural networking in Manhattan. Nature 451, 769 (2008).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. 3

    Mora, F. Neurocultura. Una cultura basada en el cerebro. (Alianza Editorial, Madrid, 2007).

    Google Scholar 

  4. 4

    Abi-Rached, J. The rise of neurosocieties. The ethical, social, economic, and political implications of the new brain sciences. EMBO rep. 9, 1158–1162 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5

    Dawson, G. Soldier Heroes: British Adventure, Empire and the Imagining of Masculinities. (Routledge, London, 2004).

    Google Scholar 

  6. 6

    Anker, S. Cultural Imaginaries and Laboratories of the Real: representing the Genetic Sciences forthcoming in The Genetics Handbook (Routledge, Cesagen Collection, London, 2009).

    Google Scholar 

  7. 7

    Vidal, F. Brainhood, anthropological figure of modernity, Hist. Hum. Sci. 22, 5–36 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. 8

    McEwan, I. Saturday (Jonathan Cape, London, 2005).

    Google Scholar 

  9. 9

    Reiner, C. The Man with Two Brains. Warner Bros (1983).

    Google Scholar 

  10. 10

    Gondry, M. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Focus Features (2004).

    Google Scholar 

  11. 11

    Zeki, S. Inner vision: an exploration of art and the brain (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1999).

    Google Scholar 

  12. 12

    Freedberg, D. & Gallese, V. Motion, emotion and empathy in esthetic experience. Trends Cogn. Sci. 11, 197–203 (2007).

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  13. 13

    Onians, J. Neuroarthistory. From Aristotle and Pliny to Baxandall and Zeki (Yale University Press, New Haven, 2007).

    Google Scholar 

  14. 14

    Stafford, B. Echo objects. The cognitive work of images (University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 2007).

    Google Scholar 

  15. 15

    Vidal, F. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and the Cultural History of the Self. WerkstattGeschichte 45, 96–109 (2007).

    Google Scholar 

  16. 16

    Vidal, F. Ectobrains in the movies in The Fragment: an incomplete history (ed. Tronzo, W.) 193–211 (Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, 2009).

    Google Scholar 

  17. 17

    Feist, F. E. Donovan's Brain. United Artists (1953).

    Google Scholar 

  18. 18

    Shiels, M. The man who sold his brain, BBC News (27 Oct 2003).

    Google Scholar 

  19. 19

    Nelkin, D. & Lindee, M. S. The DNA mystique (Freeman, New York, 1995).

    Google Scholar 

  20. 20

    Keller, E. F. The Century of the Gene (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 2000).

    Google Scholar 

  21. 21

    Nelkin, D. & Anker, S. The influence of genetics on contemporary art. Nature Rev. Genet. 12, 967–971 (2002).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. 22

    Anker, S. & Nelkin, D. The Molecuar Gaze: Art in the Genetic Age (Cold Spring Harbour Laboratory Press, New York, 2004).

    Google Scholar 

  23. 23

    Mauron, A. Renovating the house of being: genomes, souls and selves. Ann. NY Acad. Sci. 1001, 240–252 (2003).

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  24. 24

    Wingate, R. & Kwint, M. Imagining the brain cell: the neuron in visual culture. Nature Rev. Neurosci. 7, 745–752 (2006).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  25. 25

    Dodt, H. U. et al. Ultramicroscopy: three-dimensional visualization of neuronal networks in the whole mouse brain. Nature Methods 4, 331–336 (2007).

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  26. 26

    Verveer, P. J. et al. High-resolution three-dimensional imaging of large specimens with light sheet based microscopy. Nature Methods 4, 311–313 (2007).

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  27. 27

    Livet, J. et al. Transgenic strategies for combinatorial expression of fluorescent proteins in the nervous system. Nature, 450, 56–62 (2007).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  28. 28

    Lichtman, J. W., Livet, J. & Sanes, J. R. A technicolour approach to the connectome. Nature Rev. Neurosci. 9, 417–422 (2008).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  29. 29

    McGinn, C. Can we solve the mind-body problem? Mind, 98, 349–366 (1989).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. 30

    Aldworth, S. Diary entry describing the artist's experience of a cerebral angiogram [online], (2001).

    Google Scholar 

  31. 31

    Illes, J., Kirschen, M. P. & Gabrieli, J. D. From neuroimaging to neuroethics, Nature Neurosci., 6, 205 (2003).

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  32. 32

    Uttal, W. R. The New Phrenology. The Limits of Localising Cognitive Processes in the Brain (MIT Press, Cambridge, 2001).

    Google Scholar 

  33. 33

    Racine, E, Bar-Ilan, O. & Illes, J. fMRI in the public eye, Nature. Rev. Neurosci, 6, 159–156 (2005).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  34. 34

    Dumit, J. Picturing Personhood. Brain Scans and Biomedical Identity (Princeton University Press, Princeton, 2004).

    Google Scholar 

  35. 35

    Wood, N. Brainstorm (1983).

    Google Scholar 

  36. 36

    Tarr, M. J. & Warren, W. H. Virtual reality in behavioural neuroscience and beyond. Nature Neurosci.,5, 1089–1092

  37. 37

    De Carvalho, M. R., Freire, R. C. & Nardi, A. E. Virtual reality as a mechanism for exposure therapy. World J. Biol. Psychiatry, 31, 1–11 (2008).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. 38

    Gregg, L. & Tarrier, N. Virtual reality in mental health: a review of the literature. Soc. Psychiatry Epidemiol. 42, 343–354 (2007).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. 39

    Agid, Y. et al. How can drug discovery for psychiatric disorders be improved? Nature Rev. Drug Discov. 6, 189–201 (2007).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  40. 40

    Rose, N. The neurochemical self and its anomalies in Risk and Morality (ed. Ericson, R.) 407–437 (University of Toronto Press, Toronto, 2003).

    Book  Google Scholar 

  41. 41

    Schimmel, P. & Mark, L. G. Ecstasy: In and about altered states (MIT Press, Cambridge, 2005).

    Google Scholar 

  42. 42

    Michaux, H. Miserable Miracle (Editions Gallimard, Paris, 1972).

    Google Scholar 

  43. 43

    Wolpe, P. Treatment, enhancement, and the ethics of neurotherapeutics. Brain Cogn. 50, 387–395 (2002).

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  44. 44

    Parens, E. (ed.) Enhancing Human Traits. Ethical and Social Implications (Georgetown University Press, Washington DC, 1998).

    Google Scholar 

  45. 45

    Farah, M. J. Neuroethics: the practical and the philosophical. Trends in Cogn. Sci. 9, 34–40 (2005).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. 46

    Conrad, P. The Medicalization of Society (Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 2007).

    Google Scholar 

  47. 47

    Frazzetto, G. & Gross, C. Beyond Susceptibility. EMBO rep. 8, S3–S6 (2007).

    CAS  Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  48. 48

    Slater, L. Prozac Diary (Penguin Books, New York, 1999).

    Google Scholar 

  49. 49

    Skjoldbjaerg, E. Prozac Nation. Miramax (2001).

    Google Scholar 

  50. 50

    Martin, E. The pharmaceutical person. BioSocieties 1, 273–287 (2006).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  51. 51

    Mintzes, B. et al. Influence of direct to consumer pharmaceutical advertising and patients' requests on prescribing decisions: two site cross sectional survey. BMJ, 324, 278–279 (2002).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  52. 52

    Koerner, B. I. Disorder made to order. Mother Jones, 58–81 (2002).

  53. 53

    Lane, C. Shyness: How normal behavior became a sickness (Yale University Press, New Haven, 2007).

  54. 54

    Anker, S. & Talasek, J. D (eds) Introduction to Online Symposium on Visual Culture and Bioscience (National Academy of Sciences Press, Washington DC, 2008).

    Google Scholar 

  55. 55

    Arnold, K. & Wallace, M. Head On: Art with the Brain in Mind. Exhibition Catalogue (2002).

    Google Scholar 

  56. 56

    McLennan, R. & Gould, S. State of Mind [online] (2005).

    Google Scholar 

  57. 57

    Lehrer, J. Proust was a neuroscientist (Houghton Books, New York, 2007).

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

We thank J. Abi-Rached, F. Gillette and the anonymous reviewers for their comments on previous versions of this manuscript.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Supplementary information

Supplementary information S1 (box)

Historical background of 'brainhood' (PDF 101 kb)

Supplementary information S2 (figure)

Artistic representation of neuronal circuitry. (PDF 231 kb)

Related links

Related links

FURTHER INFORMATION

Neuroculture website

Brainhood project

European Neuroscience and Society Network

Glossary

Brainhood

The condition of being rather than having a brain. Denoting a brain-based type of personhood regards the brain as the only organ in our body that we need in order to be ourselves (see also Supplementary information S1 (box) and Further information). It defines human beings as 'cerebral subjects'.

Cerebral subject

A term used to equate human beings with their brains.

Cultural imaginary

Term defined by the cultural historian Graham Dawson as a set of 'discursive themes, images, motifs and narrative forms that are publicly available within a given culture at any one time, and articulate its psychic and social dimensions'5.

Neuroaesthetics

The study of art (in its conception, execution and appreciation) and aesthetic experience in neuroscientific terms16.

Neurochemical self

Refers to how, in light of increasing biological knowledge of behaviour, we are recruited to a way of living in which our life is understood in chemical terms. Rather than implying essentialism or determinism, being a neurochemical self implies freedom and responsibility to alter our states of mind and choosing among a large selection of means to optimise our capacities and performance36.

Neuroculture

Broadly refers to the incorporation of neuroscience knowledge into our life, culture and intellectual discourses. Several new terms with a 'neuro-' prefix have been used to designate the set of transformations taking place in society in light of advances in neuroscience (for example, neurosociety). In 2006, we used the term neuroculture to denote how neuroscience has specifically penetrated into popular culture and artistic expression1.

Neuroeconomics

Combines the fields of neuroscience, psychology and economics for the study of how people evaluate gains, losses and rewards in economic decision-making. It adopts economic models and brain imaging techniques to identify the brain areas that become active when making a decision. It is to be distinguished from 'neuromarketing' that specifically adopts imaging tools to investigate customer choices for marketing purposes (for example, the study of brain responses to TV commercials).

Neuroeducation

Aims at developing novel teaching and learning methods combining pedagogy and findings in neurobiology and cognitive sciences. It involves the efforts of scientists and teachers and it stresses the importance of early-age brain modifications for the development of learning capacities and adult behaviour.

Neurotheology

Investigates neural phenomena underlying the subjective experience of spiritual phenomena and religious behaviour, such as prayer or ecstatic trance. It also uses brain-imaging tools and is based on the assumption of the universality and consistency of spiritual experiences across cultures and religions.

Personhood

Is the condition of being an individual person. It includes essential human properties such as consciousness, the ability to reason and self-awareness.

Rorschach test

Is a psychological test that examines personality characteristics and emotional states on the basis of the patients' perception of ambiguous images.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Frazzetto, G., Anker, S. Neuroculture. Nat Rev Neurosci 10, 815–821 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1038/nrn2736

Download citation

Further reading

Search

Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing