• Horwitz, Allan (PI)

Project Details


The project will investigate the effects of brain injury on social relationships, role performances, and identity. Recent developments in neuroscience have improved detection of brain injuries and drawn public and scholarly attention to the extent of brain injury in the United States. The millions of people affected include veterans coping with the invisible disability of blast injury, women victimized by domestic violence, and athletes and children injured on playing fields. To improve care for injured people and their families, a better understanding of the experience of brain injury is needed. In its focus on the profoundly disruptive psychosocial aftermath of brain injury, the project offers a window into this experience. The project also offers a new angle on the debates over what it means to be human in a time when neurology dominates the human sciences: Have we come to see our personhood as fully dependent on our brains, and if not, on what do we found our identity and our claim to the rights of a person? Has the dominance of neuroscience limited or expanded our view of ourselves as humans, and in what ways?To enter these debates, the project focuses on anger, a common and disruptive symptom of brain injury that challenges beliefs about normalcy, responsibility, and identity, and repeatedly drives injured people and their families to reassess their understanding of what it means to be a person. Through qualitative methods-including discursive analysis of the ways in which injured people and their families conceptualize these anger outbursts in published writings, in artwork, and in interviews-the project distinguishes the diverse manifestations and consequences of post-injury anger, identifies the strategies individuals and families use to manage it, and investigates how people think about the relationships between brain, mind, self, and society in the neuroscientific era. Understanding how people talk and think about post-injury anger can lead to better interventions into disrupted family systems and better ways of securing adherence to anger-management protocols, which can lead to better family relationships, a lighter burden on caregivers, and better adjustment for those who suffer from the effects of brain injury. More generally, an exposition of the ways in which we think about our brains and our personhood can inform debates about the rights of the neurologically disabled. Theoretically, the project will contribute to the sociology of culture and identity, to the sociology of health and disability, to the sociology of emotions through its focus on anger?perhaps the least studied emotion?and to the sociology of science and technology through attention to how people interpret the relevance of images of their own brains.
Effective start/end date4/1/173/31/18


  • National Science Foundation (National Science Foundation (NSF))


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