The brain as an agentic system: how the brain is articulated in the field of neuroenhancement

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This article analyses the material of a European Project on Responsible Research and Innovation in Neuroenhancement (NERRI) to explore how the brain is articulated in this field. Since brains are closely connected to ideas of self, responsibility, free will and being human, and since brain metaphors have important effects on research practices and perspectives, it also matters how people talk about and use the brain. In the NERRI project, the brain is articulated as an agent interacting with or substituting the self; as a system that can, cannot or should not be analysed; and as the part of oneself that can potentially change human nature in positive and negative ways. Since most of the material analysed was produced by neuroscientists or other neuroenhancement experts, this article emphasises the responsibility of the experts in this process. By showing what brain images are disseminated within the field of neuroenhancement, and analysing how this depiction is related to ideas of self or being human, this article does not only intend to contribute to a more empirically based and societally relevant neuroenhancement debate, but also to a more realistic and societally relevant idea of the brain.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)112-127
Number of pages16
JournalSociology of Health & Illness
Issue number1
Early online date28-Aug-2018
Publication statusPublished - Jan-2019


  • discourse
  • media
  • social representations
  • science and technology studies
  • metaphor analysis

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