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Neuroanthropology is the study of the relationship between culture and the brain. This field explores how the brain gives rise to culture, how culture influences brain development, structure and function, and the pathways followed by the co-evolution of brain and culture.[1] Moreover, neuroanthropologists consider how new findings in the brain sciences help us understand the interactive effects of culture and biology on human development and behavior. In one way or another, neuroanthropologists ground their research and explanations in how the human brain develops, how it is structured and how it functions within the genetic and cultural limits of its biology (see Biogenetic structuralism and related website).

“Neuroanthropology” is a broad term, intended to embrace all dimensions of human neural activity, including emotion, perception, cognition, motor control, skill acquisition, and a range of other issues. Interests include the evolution of the hominid brain, cultural development and the brain, the biochemistry of the brain and alternative states of consciousness, human universals, how culture influences perception, how the brain structures experience, and so forth. In comparison to previous ways of doing psychological or cognitive anthropology, it remains open and heterogeneous, recognizing that not all brain systems function in the same way, so culture will not take hold of them in identical fashion.

See also

Further reading


  • Arbib, Michael A. (1989) The Metaphorical Brain 2: Neural Networks and Beyond. New York: Wiley.
  • Calvin, William H. (1989) The Cerebral Symphony. New York: Bantam.
  • E.G. d'Aquili, Laughlin, C.D. and McManus J (1979) "The Spectrum of Ritual: A Biogenetic Structural Analysis". New York: Columbia University Press.
  • Deacon, Terrence W. (1997) The Symbolic Species. New York: Norton.
  • Donald, Merlin (1991) Origins of the Modern Mind: Three Stages in the Evolution of Culture and Cognition. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  • Donald, Merlin (2001) A Mind So Rare: The evolution of human consciousness" Norton.
  • Falk, Dean (1992) Braindance. New York: Henry Holt & Co.
  • Dumit, J. (2004). Picturing personhood: brain scans and biomedical identity. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.
  • Geary, David G. (2005) The Origin of Mind: Evolution of Brain, Cognition, and General Intelligence. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
  • Harris, M., ed. (2007) Ways of Knowing: New Approaches in the Anthropology of Experience and Learning. Oxford: Berghahn.
  • Jerison, H.J. and I. Jerison (1988) Intelligence and Evolutionary Biology. Berlin: Springer-Verlag.
  • Laughlin, C.D. and E.G. d'Aquili (1974) Biogenetic Structuralism. New York: Columbia University Press.
  • Laughlin, C.D., John McManus and E.G. d'Aquili (1990) Brain, Symbol and Experience: Toward a Neurophenomenology of Human Consciousness. New York: Columbia University Press.
  • Lende, D.H. and Downey, G. (2012) The Encultured Brain: An Introduction to Neuroanthropology. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
  • Quartz, S.R. and T.J Sejnowzki (2003) Liars, Lovers, and Heroes: What the New Brain Science Reveals About How We Become Who We Are. New York: Harper Paperbacks.
  • Skoyles, John R. and Sagan, Dorion (2002) Up from Dragons: The Evolution of Human Intelligence." McGraw-Hill, New York, ISBN 0-07-137825-1
  • Winkelman, Michael (2000) Shamanism: The Neural Ecology of Consciousness and Healing. Westport, CT: Bergin & Garvey.


  • Domínguez D, JF. (2015) "Toward a neuroanthropology of ethics: Introduction". In: Jens Clausen and Neil Levy (eds.) Handbook of Neuroethics. Springer, Volume 1, pp 289–298
  • Domínguez D, JF, (2012) "Neuroanthropology and the Dialectical Imperative". Anthropological Theory 12(1):5-27
  • Domínguez D, JF, Turner, R, Lewis, ED, and Egan, GF (2010) "Neuroanthropology: A Humanistic Science for the Study of the Culture–Brain Nexus". Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience 5:138–47
  • Domínguez D, JF, Lewis, ED, Turner, R and Egan, GF (2009) "The Brain in Culture and Culture in the Brain: A Review of Core Issues in Neuroanthropology". In: Joan Y. Chiao (ed.) Progress in Brain Research, Vol 178, Cultural Neuroscience: Cultural Influences on Brain Function. Elsevier, The Netherlands, pp. 43–6
  • Iacoboni, M., Lieberman, M. D., Knowlton, B. J., Molnar-Szakacs, I., Moritz, M., Throop, C. J. et al. (2004). "Watching social interactions produces dorsomedial prefrontal and medial parietal BOLD fMRI signal increases compared to a resting baseline". Neuroimage 21:1167-73.
  • Mason, P.H. (2014) "What is normal? A historical survey and neuroanthropological perspective." In: Jens Clausen and Neil Levy (eds.) Handbook of Neuroethics, Springer, Volume 1,pp. 343–63.
  • Marcus, Joseph A. (1997) "Neuroanthropology." In: Barfield, Thomas (ed.) The Dictionary of Anthropology, pp. 340–2. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
  • Rilling, J. K., Barks, S. K., Parr, L. A., Preuss, T. M., Faber, T. L., Pagnoni, G. et al. (2007). "A comparison of resting-state brain activity in humans and chimpanzees". Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 104:17146-51.
  • Roepstorff, A (2004) "Postscript: Mapping brain mappers: An ethnographic coda". In: Frackowiak R, et al. (eds.) Human Brain Function. San Diego: Elsevier.
  • Roepstorff, A. (2002) "Transforming subjects into objectivity. An ethnography of knowledge in a brain imaging laboratory". Folk. Journal of the Danish Ethnographic Society 44:145-70.
  • Turner, R (2012) "The need for systematic ethnopsychology: The ontological status of mentalistic terminology". Anthropological Theory 12:29-42.
  • Turner, R (2001) "Culture and the human brain". Anthropology and Humanism 26(2):167–172.
  • Turner, V (1983) "Body, brain, and culture". Zygon 18(3): 221–245.
  • Turner, V (1985) "The new neurosociology". In: Turner ELB (ed.) On the Edge of the Bush: Anthropology as Experience. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 283–286.
  • Whitehead, C. (2012) "Why the behavioural sciences need the concept of the culture-ready brain". Anthropological Theory 12:43-71.
  • Whitehead, C., Marchant, J. L., Craik, D., & Frith, C. D. (2009) "Neural correlates of observing pretend play in which one object is represented as another". Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience 4:369-78.


  1. Domínguez D, Juan F; Lewis, ED; Turner, R; Egan, GF (2009). Chiao, JY (ed.). "The Brain in Culture and Culture in the Brain: A Review of Core Issues in Neuroanthropology". Progress in Brain Research. Special issue: Cultural Neuroscience: Cultural Influences on Brain Function. The Netherlands: Elsevier. 178: 43–6. doi:10.1016/S0079-6123(09)17804-4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

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