Volume 1, Number 1 Fall, 1988

Editor : Dr. Charles Laughlin, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario, CANADA K1S 5B6, Phone (819) 459-1121.


I suppose that anyone who starts a newsletter or journal has high hopes for their vision. I know I do. It has long been a fantasy of mine to somehow bring together the handful of people in the world who are interested in neuroanthropology. I hope this newsletter will help to realize that vision.

What I have in mind is an informal organ for networking among scholars with a common interest in neuroanthropology. What I mean by "neuroanthropology" is the merger of any kind of anthropology, sociology, or cross-cultural psychology with the neurosciences. This includes any research or theory pertaining to the relations among brain, consciousness, culture and society, whether that research originates from a physical anthropological perspective (non-human primates, hominids) or a sociocultural perspective (social variation in EEG patterns, enculturative influences upon neural development).

This is your newsletter. As such it will evolve in form and function according to the nature of your participation. You may participate by sharing your work, your discoveries, your insights, concerns and questions, and any information you feel is pertinent to our common concerns.

However, this is not a journal and contributions should always be short, pithy and informative. I have given some examples of the kind of short notices I mean in this issue, but they of course reflect my own interests and perhaps not your own (I teach a course called Anthropology Through Science Fiction, and am interested in neural networks and neuroepistemology, among other things). Submission may be in the form of an informal letter to me and should be geared towards setting us off in the right direction on some issue, idea, new line of thought or research.

I believe a regular feature should be a Profile in Research in which each of us may share what we are doing at the moment, or have done in the past of relevance to neuroanthropology. I will solicit a page-length contribution from a different member of the network for each issue (Warren TenHouten kindly volunteered to be first out of the gate. Many thanks, Warren!). But don't wait for the call if you have something interesting happening about which you would like some feedback from the network.

Another useful feature could be a section for current addresses and areas of interest of network members, so if you change your permanent address or interests, please let me know and I will put it in. If you have a question or problem you would like to put before the readers, send it in. If you find some interesting resource, book or article that you think might be of interest to us, let me know. If it seems worthwhile to you, write up a paragraph-length review of the source. Particularly interesting would be forewarning of forthcoming publications. And, if you can think of some other way the newsletter can better serve us all, let me know.

For the near future the newsletter will come out quarterly and will be free, although I would gratefully accept any voluntary contributions you care to send towards covering costs. I will seek funds from my institution to pay for materials and postage, but the time may come when I have to ask for a formal contribution from you. We shall see. Please feel free to copy this issue and send it to anyone you feel might be interested. Or if you will send me names and addresses of potential members, I will send them a copy.


Warren D. TenHouten , Ph.D. is Professor of Sociology at UCLA. Since 1970 he has been actively engaged in research in the sociology of knowledge, the comparative sociology of scientific and non-scientific knowledge processes, and in the sociology of education. He has worked toward the establishment of neurosociology, primarily through research on the social and cultural determinants of higher cognitive functions which typify the modes of thinking of the left and right cerebral hemispheres of the brain, and of the mode of thinking produced by the dynamics of hemispheric interaction. He has carried out studies of cultural and social variations in performances on hemisphere-dependent cognitive tests, and has studied cerebral lateralization in Hopi Indian children, both for hemisphere-dependent tests and for listening to texts in Hopi and in English. More recently, he has now completed, in collaboration with Joseph Bogen, Klaus Hoppe, and Donald Walter, an experimental study of alexithymia ("no words for feeling") in corpus callosotomy ("split brain") patients and normal controls, in which alexithymia, and psychosomatic personality structure, were found to be aspects of the acallosal syndrome.

Professor TenHouten is, until December, Visiting Professor in the School of Sociology, The University of New South Wales, in Kensington, Australia. In his capacity of Senior Research Fellow at the N.S.W. Aboriginal Family Education Centres Federation (AFEC), he is carrying out a study of cerebral lateralization and the cognitive development of Aboriginal and Anglo-Celtic Australian-born school-age children. This study is now in the field in the mid-north coast of N.S.W. and will be extended to three other settings. In-depth interviews of parents of the tested children are being obtained, and children are being tested for hemisphere-dependent tests, for tests of hemispheric integration, and for mundane school-related tasks such as numerical computation, reading, and drawing. As children work certain of these tests and tasks, electroencephalographic data are obtained, which are augmented by the simultaneous acquisition of visual and auditory probe-evoked potential data. This study was initiated by the Aborigines of the AFEC movement, and is directed and coordinated by these Aborigines, who are also collecting all Aboriginal data in the field.

Papers (co)authored by Professor TenHouten may be found in Intern. J. Neuroscience 8:1-6 (1977), 28:125-146 (1985), 30:255-260 (1986); J. Alt. States of Consc. 4(2):129-140 (1978-79); Cur. Anthro. 17(3):503-506 (1976), 18(2):344-346 (1977).


Avid science fiction readers will be familiar with the name of William Gibson , one of the leading lights of SF in the eighties. Gibson won the Hugo, Nebula and Dick awards for his 1984 novel, Neuromancer , and came to the fore as the leader of what has become known variously as the Eighties Wave, the Neuromantics, the Mirrorshades group, and most commonly, Cyberpunk.

What makes his work so interesting is his view of a near future in which information technology has advanced past the point where the brain-machine interface is a problem. In fact, people routinely have microchips embedded in their brains that allow them to communicate with information technologies outside their bodies. Gibson's characters are street people, and his focus is on how street culture transforms information technology to its own purposes. Especially interesting for us is his vision of the transformation of neurocognition and consciousness made possible by merging brain and machine.

Gibson's other works include the novel, Count Zero , and the remarkable series of short stories, Burning Chrome , all from Ace Books in New York. A related collection of short stories from the Cyberpunk group, including one by Gibson, may be found in the paperback, Mirrorshades , edited by Bruce Sterling, also published by Ace Books. Still another work of this group is Hard Wired by Walter Jon Williams, published by Tom Doherty in the TOR series.


A new organization called the International Neural Network Society was founded in 1987. The intent of the INNS is to promote neural network research and education in a distinctly interdisciplinary way. The society publishes a journal, Neural Networks , which comes out quarterly and offers such articles as:

- An Introduction to Neural Computing

- A Silicon Model of Early Visual Processing

- A Consideration of Invertebrate Central Pattern Generators as Computational Data Bases

- Neocognitron: A Hierarchical Neural Network Capable of Visual Pattern Recognition

Membership in the society includes a subscription to the journal and may be had for an annual fee of US$ 45. Application for membership may be addressed to Dr. Harold Szu, NRL, Code 5756, Washington, D.C. 20375-5000, USA.


A new journal of general interest to neuroanthropologists was launched in 1986. It is Biology and Philosophy , an interdisciplinary forum for addressing the profound implications of biology for ethics, aesthetics, thought, logic and other philosophical issues. As the editor has written in the journal's statement of scope, " Biology and Philosophy begins publication with four issues per year and is aimed at a broad readership, drawn from both the sciences and the humanities. It subscribes to no specific school of biology or philosophy, welcoming submissions from authors of all persuasions, and all disciplines. To this end, the editors are drawn evenly from biology and philosophy, and the editorial board has representatives from all parts of the world - East and West, North and South - and from positions of various persuasions."

Articles thus far have covered a wide range of issues, including the evolutionary epistemology of Donald Campbell and the usefulness of the concept of species. But, mind you, I sent them one of my papers that combines neurobiology and phenomenology and the editor rejected it saying "its not our kind of thing." They may be wedded to the American analytical view of philosophy. Try them yourselves, and good luck!

Subscriptions should be sent to Kluwer Academic Publishers Group, P.O. Box 322, 3300 AH Dordrecht, Holland, or to P.O. Box 358, Accord Station, Hingham, MA 02018-0358, USA. Manuscripts (three copies) may be sent to the editor, Professor Michael Ruse, Department of History and Philosophy, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario N1G 2W1, CANADA.