The Neurotechnological Cerebral Subject: Persistence of Implicit and Explicit Gender Norms in a Network of Change

Abstract

Under the realm of neurocultures the concept of the cerebral subject emerges as the central category to define the self, socio-cultural interaction and behaviour. The brain is the reference for explaining cognitive processes and behaviour but at the same time the plastic brain is situated in current paradigms of (self)optimization on the market of meritocracy by means of neurotechnologies. This paper explores whether neurotechnological apparatuses may—due to their hybridity and malleability—bear potentials for a change in gender based attributions that have been historically legitimized by apparently natural differences between women and men. Or, in contrast, which gendered ascriptions are (again) produced in theories and applications according to the normative demands for the bio-techno-social cerebral subject situated in neoliberal power relations. An exploration of three main fields of current developments, the neurotechnological apparatus of brain-computer-interfaces, the technologies for brain tuning and the discourses in neuroeconomics, reveals first insights on these gender aspects in reliance with the ethical/political debate. Moreover, this paper concretizes questions for further research on gender and ethical aspects in the field of neurotechnologies.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    More and more, this type of reflective analysis enters high-ranked neuroscience journals, as for example [20] in Brain Research Reviews or [21] in Brain and Language, and it improves the discussion about influences of the empirical setup, of the techniques of data acquisition and data analysis, or of the use of statistical procedures on research findings concerning brain and gender.

  2. 2.

    Nonetheless, brain images do not loose their seemingly objective power in scientific and even more in popular discourse, but this analysis would go beyond the scope of this paper, for overview see [26].

  3. 3.

    This BCI technology uses changes in particular brain signals (P300) to be transformed into control signals for the devices.

  4. 4.

    I use the term ‘promise’ here in reference to the review of Irving Kirsch and colleagues [69], who stated that Prozac only shoes placebo effects in cases of moderate depression. Nevertheless the Prozac market seams to be more or less unaffected by these results until now.

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Schmitz, S. The Neurotechnological Cerebral Subject: Persistence of Implicit and Explicit Gender Norms in a Network of Change. Neuroethics 5, 261–274 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12152-011-9129-1

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Keywords

  • Neurotechnologies
  • Neuroenhancement
  • Cerebral subject
  • Optimization
  • Gender and ethics