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Cultural neuroscience is an interdisciplinary field studying how cultural values, such as practices and beliefs, shape and are shaped by the mind, brain and genes across multiple timescales. The two main questions in cultural neuroscience are: how does culture shape behavior and neurobiology; and how does neurobiology reflect culture.
The study of cultural neuroscience bridges theory and methods from anthropology, psychology, neuroscience and genetics. Cultural neuroscientists study cultural variation in mental, neural and genomic processes as a means of articulating the bidirectional relationship of these processes and their emergent properties using a variety of methods. Researchers in cultural neuroscience are motivated by two fundamentally intriguing, yet still unanswered, questions on the origins of human nature and human diversity: how do cultural traits (e.g., values, beliefs, practices) shape neurobiology (e.g., genetic and neural processes) and behavior and how do neurobiological mechanisms (e.g., genetic and neural processes) facilitate the emergence and transmission of cultural traits?
The idea that complex behavior results from the dynamic interaction of genes and cultural environment is not new; however, cultural neuroscience represents a novel empirical approach to demonstrating bidirectional interactions between culture and biology by integrating theory and methods from cultural psychology, neuroscience and neurogenetics.
Similar to other interdisciplinary fields such as social neuroscience,cognitive neuroscience,affective neuroscience, and neuroanthropology, cultural neuroscience aims to explain a given mental phenomenon in terms of a synergistic product of mental, neural and genetic events. In particular, cultural neuroscience shares common research goals with social neuroscientists examining how neurobiological mechanisms (e.g., mirror neurons), facilitate cultural transmission, (e.g., imitative learning) and neuroanthropologists examining how embedded culture, as captured by cross-species comparison and ethnography, is related to brain function. Cultural neuroscience also shares intellectual goals with critical neuroscience, a field of inquiry that scrutinizes the social, cultural, economic and political contexts and assumptions that underlie behavioral and brain science research as it is practiced today.
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