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Traces of Culture: The Feedback Loop Between Behavior, Brain, and Disorder

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  • Daina Crafa
  • Saskia K. Nagel, RWTH Aachen University, Germany

Culture is part of an extensive series of feedback loops, which involve multiple organismic levels including social contexts, cognitive mediations, neural processes, and behavior. Recent studies in neuroscience show that culturally contingent social processes shape some neural pathways. Studying the influence of cultural context on neural processes may yield new insights into psychiatric disorders. New methodologies in the neurosciences offer innovative ways to assess the impact of culture on mental health and illness. However, implementing these methodologies raises important theoretical and ethical concerns, which must be resolved to address patient individuality and the complexity of cultural diversity. This article discusses cultural context as a major influence on (and consequence of) human neural plasticity and advocates a culture–brain–behavior (CBB) interaction model for conceptualizing the relationship between culture, brain, and psychiatric disorders. Recommendations are made for integrating neuroscientific techniques into transcultural psychiatric research by taking a systems approach to evaluating disorders.

Original languageEnglish
JournalTranscultural Psychiatry
Pages (from-to)387-407
Number of pages21
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020

Bibliographical note

Submitted August 2012; accepted November 2014

    Research areas

  • transcultural psychiatry, cultural neuroscience, fMRI, neural plasticity, culture–brain–behavior interaction model, CBB model, cognitive mediation

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