Neuroscience and the politics of mental health
Professor Nikolas Rose highlights how modern neuroscience and the medical perception of the brain change the way we view ourselves. What kinds of creatures do we, modern human beings, take ourselves to be?
Rose draws on his research on the history and sociology of psychiatry and the neurosciences. He will argue that the current focus of scientific, medical and popular attention on the human brain amounts to a shift in our ‘relation to ourselves’. He argues that those from the social and human sciences need to attend to and engage with this shift, but that their relation to these developments should be one of ‘critical friendship’. His talk focuses on psychiatry and mental health, and he illustrates his argument with a critical analysis of five areas where such critical friendship is required:
- The idea that disorders from anxiety to addiction are ‘brain disorders’
- The claims made by the ‘big brain projects’ such as the Human Brain Project and the US Brain Project
- The global rise in the use of psychiatric drugs
- The search for ‘biomarkers’ for the diagnosis and treatment of mental distress
- The ‘translational imperative, and the problems of moving findings from the laboratory to everyday life
He concludes with a discussion of contemporary transformations in conceptions of personhood and their implications.