The brain as technology

Otniel E. DROR
History of Medicine, The Hebrew University-Haddasah Medical School, Jerusalem, Israel

This paper studies the convergence of brain research with the physiology of emotions during the twentieth century. It argues that the twentieth-century brain entered the laboratory of emotions not as an object of knowledge, but as a technology that promised to overcome the laboratory's resistance to emotions. The brain as emotion-technology restructured the relationships between physiological and psychological forms of knowledge, embodied a new physiological-type emotion, responded to contemporary concerns with the status of animals in physiological laboratories, and excluded the experiencing subject from the physiological study of "emotion." The constitution of the brain as a technology was one central site in which modern physiology of the brain abandoned the psychological, and construed a purely biological role of human experience. The paper also makes a brief excursion into the social history of pain, in order to show that the reactions of physiologists to local political events were instrumental for the construction of the brain as a technology. The constitutive elements that were assembled in creating the brain-as-technology were instrumental for the important studies of James Papez, Paul Maclean, and for the modern concept of Limbic System.


Session I -- 20th Century Brain Research and Emotions
Thursday, 14 June 2001, 9:30 am

Sixth Annual Meeting of the International Society for the History of the Neurosciences (ISHN) and
Eighth Meeting of the European Club for the History of Neurology (ECHN)

Cologne, Germany