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Book and Media Reviews
October 18, 2006

Brain and Culture

Author Affiliations

Book and Media Reviews Section Editor: Harriet S. Meyer, MD, Contributing Editor, JAMA.

JAMA. 2006;296(15):1905-1910. doi:10.1001/jama.296.15.1906

Neuroscience allows us to explore how our brains work at the mechanical level. Neuroscience also prompts us to ask how our brains influence and constrain what we think, what we feel, and what we do. Thus, it is little wonder that domains as diverse as psychoanalysis, anthropology, and sociology draw inspiration from the rich canvas of modern neuroscience.

Bruce Wexler draws inspiration from both neuroscience and sociology in his short monograph Brain and Culture. Wexler's central argument is thought provoking. Cellular and behavioral neuroscience has allowed us to catch a glimpse of the complex mechanisms by which early environmental influences permanently shape ongoing brain function. Brains are designed to extract information from the environment and to be permanently shaped by this material. Within this ontogenetic trajectory, some developmental windows are more critical than others. Furthermore, behavioral neuroscience has confirmed what folk wisdom has long known: we prefer familiar environments, and we seek to shape our environment in order to conform to earlier, formative experiences.

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