Neuroarcheologies of the Present

Cultural Plasticity: Neuroarchaeologies of the Present

Timothy F. Yaczo | Supervisors Patricia Pisters and Jan Hein Hoogstad | University of Amsterdam 2011-2015

My project aims to intervene in the methodologies, discursive deliveries and implications of cognitive neuroscience. Considering themselves as working between branches of psychology and neuroscience, researchers of cognitive neuroscience scientifically study the biological structures underlying cognition. Propelled by developments in technology (such as Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation and Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging), studies and research resulting from employing methodologies of measurability centralize the brain as an apparatus par excellence at the intersection of physiology and psychology. The epistemological implications of such current ‘recognitions’ of the brain are expressed culturally in varied scenes. Characterizations in narratives are susceptible to readings of neurological structures; madness or sincerity, for example, is attributed to trauma or lesions in the brain. Gender expression and construction becomes the scene of a synaptic crime, where platitudes like male, female or trans are explained away as a chemical and electrical reaction through the visual aid of FMRI scans. The brain, too, enters politics, not merely as a vital or biological phenomenon, but as a collection of evidence, vulnerable to management and discipline. What concerns me most about contemporary neuroscience is the seductive apophenia at play; in a quest to capture and predict ‘the brain’, consciousness and affect are annexed— and abbreviated—into patterns of data always already observable and intelligible. Intrigued by this sensation that neuroscience (and the trope of neuroplasticity) is becoming a brute answer to questions of corporeality, cognition and behavior, I will trace how the formation of neurocognition and plasticity implicate cultural practice and expectations.