Vital Brains: On the entanglement of media, minds, and models

Cornelius Borck*

*Corresponding author for this work


The advent of functional imaging, hailed as a breakthrough for marrying morphological and functional approaches in brain research, invites a reflection upon the interplay between models, instruments, and theories. Brain research and theorizing about the brain are generally mediated by the research technologies employed. Going back into the history of brain research, the chapter explores the epistemic effects of research technologies by focusing on the localization debate in relation to different visualization strategies. In this way, one can differentiate between abstracting and concretizing approaches to brain modeling. These approaches form the basis for introducing the concept of vital abstraction by revisiting Grey Walter's The Living Brain. Walter's adventures in visualizing brain activity and constructing lively toys are described as a form of brain theorizing that is anchored in empirical research but focuses on the brain's vital activity instead of identifying morphological and structural details. The concept of vital abstraction is further explored by applying the concept of epistemic virtues to evaluate current brain models and for coming to terms with the dynamics of brain research.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProgress in Brain Research
Number of pages24
PublisherElsevier B.V.
Publication date01.01.2017
Publication statusPublished - 01.01.2017

Research Areas and Centers

  • Research Area: Center for Cultural Studies (ZKFL)

DFG Research Classification Scheme

  • 108-02 Theoretical Philosophy
  • 205-07 Medical Informatics and Medical Bioinformatics


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