The brain as an epistemic project

The Finnish society for alcohol, drug, and gambling researchers (AHRTS) celebrated that it has passed 60 years since its establishment. Matilda Hellman was invited as anniversary celebration speaker. Her topic was “The contribution of neuroscience: how is it construed and how it is used?”

Hellman introduced the ERA-NET consortium of which she is the Principal Investigator (PI). The project focuses on the epistemic project of neuroscience in addiction.

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Two new investigators at CAMH

Recently, the A-BRAIN consortium welcomed two new researchers at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto.

PhD student Samantha Rundle started already in late 2018 and became a crucial part of the focus group material gathering last winter. Rundle started her work in the addiction field in her recently completed Master’s thesis at the University of Toronto. Her current research examines the impact of stigma on individuals suffering from substance use disorders.

Samantha Rundle

In her MA thesis Samantha investigated how public stigma is impacted by the way in which we define addiction, and by the beliefs that individuals hold toward addiction in the society. Findings from the study suggested that addictive disorders continue to be more stigmatized than a co-occurring addictive and mental health disorder, a mental health disorder alone, and a non-psychiatric medical disorder (diabetes). Additionally, it indicated that beliefs in a psychological and natural model of addiction over a Brain Disease Model of Addiction (BDMA) predicted the lowest public stigma ratings towards individuals suffering from an addictive disorder.

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A unique contribution in neuroethics

The A-BRAIN project gathered in Lisbon in late September to participate in the International Conference on Neuroethics (ICONE5) and the ERA-NET midterm progress reporting event. At the ICONE conference, international names in neuro- and bioethics, such as Eric Racine and Kathinka Everes discussed current challenges in view of recent developments and discoveries in neuroscience. Continue reading “A unique contribution in neuroethics”

Toronto protocol meeting

This week Michael Egerer and Matilda Hellman visited CAMH and consulted with the staff of the Biobehavioral Alcohol Research Lab at CAMH for the research protocol design. The focus group interviews are being conducted at CAMH in early 2019.

New project on agency

CEACG-researcher Petteri Koivula is initiating his doctoral dissertation project on how agency is construed and reproduced through the epistemic project of brain-based addiction.
The project Brain-based addiction: Implications for views on agency (AGENCY) will ask how the epistemic project of brain-based addiction comes about and its implications for persons who suffer from the problems. The study inquires into how agency of people with addictions materializes in the implementation of the Brain Disease Model of Addiction (BDMA) in general epistemic and popular constructs; in policy and practice and in treatment settings. The project, which is part of the A-BRAIN consortium, has cooperation partners in Canada and in Germany.
Koivula, who has previously worked at the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), started as a research assistant at the CEACG in April. He recently finalized his master’s thesis from the University of Turku concerning psychedelic drug use experiences.
During the work with his dissertation Petteri will be enrolled as a PhD student at the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Helsinki.

The projects first meeting

The A-BRAIN research consortium had its first work meeting in Toronto 26-28.3.2018. In the picture, from left Patricia Conrod, Sarah Forberger, Michael Egerer, Matilda Hellman, Jürgen Rehm. Jeffrey Wardell, Elroy Boers, Christian Hendershot.
Missing from picture: Anna Alanko, John Cunningham, Doris Ochterbeck, Petteri Koivula

Project start date 1st of March

The A-BRAIN (2018-2021) project concerns the implementation of the Brain Disease Model of Addiction (BDMA) and its possible implications for policy and practice. Seen in a wider perspective the project asks what it means when epistemic dogma starts situating the problems of addiction in the brain. How can this kind of knowledge be used and implemented in the most fruitful, sound and ethical ways? How can societies utilize the valuable parts of these discoveries and how does it change the ways in which we deal with addiction?

This project blog will gather and publish news, information and outcomes of the project. The official start day of the project is in Finland the 1st of March 2018.

Partner institutions are: Leibniz Institute for Prevention Research and Epidemiology (BIPS) in Bremen, CHU Ste-Justine in Montreal, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto, and University of Helsinki (UH). The UH holds the lead and coordination responsibility. The funding body is ERA NET ELSA-NEURON

In the recent editorial The epistemic project of the addicted brain: Towards a socio-historical understanding consortium leader Matilda Hellman discusses the value of a socio-historical framing of the rise of the phenomenon of the addicted brain. She proposes that there is a need to “stepping out of” and “stepping into” the “epistemic state of nature”, within which true beliefs and knowledge are sought on the phenomenon of addiction. The “stepping out” can, she suggests, be achieved by a socio-historical framing whereas the “stepping in”, on its part, involves re-situating addiction research as part of the phenomenon of addiction. This can help us understand how we form the phenomenon by studying it.

The A-BRAIN will explore and measure expectations and attitudes regarding the BDMA in popular discourse, among clients and staff in treatment, and, during a prevention programme tuition trait. The results will form a base for a book in which ethical and sound implementation in governance is discussed from different perspectives.
The first work meeting of the project is in Toronto 26-28 of March, 2018.