by April Irwin
Although this article predates the readings for this week, I think it is important to gain some insight into the beginnings of a new field of study. Campbell and Garcia’s (2009) article in Frontiers in Evolutionary Neuroscience highlights the application of neuroanthropology within the larger field of interdisciplinary studies. In this article, the authors highlight differences in the definition of embodiment in anthropology and in evolutionary neuroscience with the main difference being how they view the relationship between the subjective experience of the body with the physiological functioning of the brain. Their definition of embodiment, which integrates both views is, “somatic mood, a feeling that is not closely tied to language” (Campbell & Garcia, 2009, p. 2). They distinguish this emotional embodiment as being separate from the cognitive and language-dependent embodiment.
The article continues as the authors pinpoint the insula and anterior cingulate cortex as implicated brain structures that have been identified in studies about ritual spiritual practices. They discuss the experiences of yoga, meditation, being in love, and ritual healing practices including the ingestion of psychoactive plant tea to increase empathetic feelings. One critique I have with regard to the writing of this section is the description of a Japanese yoga master as, “a more exotic example” (Campbell & Garcia, 2009, p. 2), which seems to be out of place in an article that is attempting to build a bridge towards anthropology.
Following this discussion, the authors describe the evolutionary evidence for somatic representation in humans and other primates. Humans have a very well-developed insula and Von Economo neurons (VENs), which are suggested to play a large role in the, “rapid processing of complex social information” (Campbell & Garcia, 2009, p. 3). Anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) activation suggests that fairness, which is an element of social exclusion, has some implications for survival. The authors do a great job of incorporating neuroscientific data, including neural correlates, in conjunction with social contructs. One issue that may come up is that this succinct combining of these two, highly complicated concepts also simplifies each of them. However, I think in the context of this short article, this is entirely appropriate. The future research ideas also encourage more exploration of the ideas explored in this article, which implies that the ideas that have been communicated are indeed more complex than the one or two sentences that have been written about each type of study or construct.
Reference: Campbell, B. C., & Garcia, J. R. (2009). Neuroanthropology: Evolution and emotional embodiment. Frontiers in Evolutionary Neuroscience, 1(4), 1–6. http://doi.org/10.3389/neuro.18.004.2009