The Encultured Brain

Neuroplasticity meets cultural variation in The Encultured Brain. From martial arts to addiction, neuroanthropologists examine how brains work in the wild.

This work begins with one simple premise:

The brain and the nervous system are our most cultural organs.

Edited by Daniel Lende and Greg Downey, and published by MIT Press, this volume presents the foundations of neuroanthropology.

As a potential new synthesis, it is brilliant and challenging.
Dirk Hanson

The Encultured Brain is available in Hardcover and Kindle from Amazon, as well as a wide-range of online and brick-and-mortar booksellers.

The book opens with the basics of doing neuroanthropology and covers the biological and evolutionary bases for how brain and culture meet. Then a group of interdisciplinary scientists and ethnographers provide a series of case studies on human capacities and skills as well as problems and pathologies.

Below is the full Table of Contents. As authors contribute posts that highlight their chapters, new links will be added to highlight this online bonus material.

Part I: On the Encultured Brain
Chapter 1 The Encultured Brain: Development, Case Studies, and Methods by Daniel H. Lende and Greg Downey

Our collaboration truly began online. That led to a new envisioning of how neuroscience and anthropology help to answer fundamental questions about human nature and culture.

Chapter 2 Neuroanthropology and the Encultured Brain by Greg Downey and Daniel H. Lende

Neuroanthropology – the basics. Neuroplasticity, cultural neuroscience, human variation, and culture theory form the foundations of this new field.

Chapter 3 Primate Social Cognition, Human Evolution, and Niche Construction: A Core Context for Neuroanthropology by Katherine C. MacKinnon and Agustín Fuentes

The human brain is a primate brain. But one transformed by our creation of a new evolutionary niche – culture.

Chapter 4 Evolution and the Brain by Greg Downey and Daniel H. Lende

A baroque biocultural brain, rather than a Swiss Army Knife, is what evolution has given us.

Part II: Case Studies on Human Capacities, Skills, and Variation
Chapter 5 Memory and Medicine by M. Cameron Hay

Sacred healing and biomedicine share more similarities than we think – both are systems of knowledge that recruit memory. But they do so in contrasting ways.

Chapter 6 Balancing between Cultures: Equilibrium in Capoeira by Greg Downey

What handstands and cartwheels show us about how human balance really works. Enculturation reaches deep into the brain.

Chapter 7 From Habits of Doing to Habits of Feeling: Skill Acquisition in Taijutsu Practice by Katja Pettinen

Westerners like to break physical training down in small repetitive tasks. Some skills require a different sort of mastery.

Chapter 8 Holistic Humor: Coping with Cancer by Kathryn Bouskill

Sometimes cancer needs more laughter than ribbons. Here’s why.

Chapter 9 Embodiment and Male Vitality in Subsistence Societies by Benjamin Campbell

Guys are basically the same everywhere, right? Not when we open our scholarly eyes to our variable bodies.

Part III: Case Studies on Human Problems, Pathologies, and Variation
Chapter 10 War and Dislocation: A Neuroanthropological Model of Trauma among American Veterans with Combat PTSD by Erin P. Finley

Trauma to horror – understanding how PTSD really develops.

Chapter 11 Autism as a Case for Neuroanthropology: Delineating the Role of Theory of Mind in Religious Development by Rachel S. Brezis

Autistics in Israel develop a relationship with God, despite theorists’ best efforts to say that just isn’t possible.

Chapter 12 Collective Excitement and Lapse in Agency: Fostering an Appetite for Cigarettes by Peter G. Stromberg

Smoking takes a crowd, and some of us really get caught up in it.

Chapter 13 Addiction and Neuroanthropology by Daniel H. Lende

Habit and desire and the depths of abuse.

Chapter 14 Cultural Consonance, Consciousness, and Depression: Genetic Moderating Effects on the Psychological Mediators of Culture by William W. Dressler, Mauro C. Balieiro, and José Ernesto dos Santos

Not matching your culture can be depressing, but not for everyone.

Part IV: Conclusion
Chapter 15 The Encultured Brain — Toward the Future by Daniel H. Lende and Greg Downey

Avoid the pitfalls inside and outside of this new interdisciplinary effort. Or, how we really can all get along.

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