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.

The background of this project is really just the increased interest in neuroscientific inquiries, and the reason for this lies in the innovation and technological progress that has led to more insight into how the human brain functions, explained Hellman.

The A-BRAIN project can be seen as part of the sociological interest in growing biomedicalization trends which started to accelerate in the late 20th century.

Neuroscience has expanded its influence over territories of human conduct. It is hard to find any examples of human behaviors or habits that haven’t been framed from the perspective of brain mechanisms: consumption choices, eating habits, political engagement, career paths and spouse selection – potentially all human conduct – can be understood as steered and conditioned from within the cockpits in our head, explained Hellman. 

You speak about the EPAB –  the epistemic project of the addicted brain –what does it mean?

The EPAB consists of all references to the brains role in addiction which are produced, reproduced and disseminated through communication and social interaction. The activity of spreading and communicating this project, and by doing so influencing reality, is biomedical ontopolitical work, explains Hellman. 

Hellman sees that this point of view allows researchers to look at all types of uses of brain research as a conceptual tool. It can be an important construct for self-understanding for people with substance problems or it can be used as a pedagogical tool in prevention work targeted at school children.

The A-BRAIN project is finalizing a book contract with a renowned international publisher and is launching its theoretical and methodological perspective to wider audiences in the year of 2021.

The power point of Hellman’s presentation (in Finnish) can be found here.