How we may think. Imaging and writing technologies across the history of the neurosciences

Cornelius Borck*

*Korrespondierende/r Autor/-in für diese Arbeit
2 Zitate (Scopus)


In the neurosciences, two alternative regimes of visualization can be differentiated: anatomical preparations for morphological images and physiological studies for functional representations. Adapting a distinction proposed by Peter Galison, this duality of visualization regimes is analyzed here as the contrast between an imaging and a writing approach: the imaging approach, focusing on mimetic representations, preserving material and spatial relations, and the writing approach as used in physiological studies, retaining functional relations. After a dominance of morphological images gathering iconic representations of brains and architectural brain theories, the advent of electroencephalography advanced writing approaches with their indexical signs. Addressing the brain allegedly at its mode of operation, electroencephalography was conceived as recording the brain's intrinsic language, extending the writing approach to include symbolic signs. The availability of functional neuroimaging signaled an opportunity to overcome the duality of imaging and writing, but revived initially a phrenological conflation of form and function, suppressing the writing approach in relation to imaging. More sophisticated visualization modes, however, converted this reductionism to the ontological productivity of social neuroscience and recuperated the theorizing from the writing approach. In light of the ongoing instrumental mediations between brains, data and theories, the question of how we may think, once proposed by Vannevar Bush as a prospect of enhanced human-machine interaction, has become the state of affairs in the entanglements of instruments and organic worlds.

ZeitschriftStudies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C :Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
Seiten (von - bis)112-120
PublikationsstatusVeröffentlicht - 01.06.2016

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