Innogen

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Banking on the Brain

Shawn HE Harmon

Affiliated staff:   Gill Haddow

Funding: AHRC

February 14 2012 – November 13 2012

Through cross-disciplinary investigations and discussions around the governance of brain-banking, this project explored interactions between science and culture, and addressed questions pertaining to conceptions of the brain embedded within brain banking practice, the impacts of these on law, and the legal and cultural traction of the knowledge produced by brain banking.

The project found that the brain was salient in legal debates around death and injury compensation, but has been treated like any other tissue or organ when it came to science regulation. Brain banks are governed by de jure law and de facto regulation emerging from routinised practice and codes of conduct. Despite resonance of issues and concerns between brain banks and other types of biobanks, dialogue about the ethical, legal and cultural aspects, and implications of the work in these domains remained limited.

More broadly, neurologic knowledge has contributed to the development of ‘neurolaw’ – a discursive realm within which there is often a poverty of understanding of both the scope and limits of neuroscience and brain banks, and the practice and meanings of law. Regarding collaboration, this project has shown how the ambiguities and ambivalences that differences between intellectual traditions might produce could be leveraged to animate new interdisciplinary conversations, initiatives, and innovations.