Philosophical Society of Washington

Imaging the Brain–Finding Emotion

Claudia Wassmann
National Institutes of Health

2201st Meeting Abstract
Friday, February 10, 2006 at 8:15 PM


During the past twenty years the understanding of emotion shifted in the scientific literature from “emotional disorders” to emotion as “function of the brain.” How did this change from disorder to brain “function” came about? Extensive studies on the amygdala that began in the early 1980s were one important step. The development and increasing sophistication of imaging techniques and their application to the study of the brain was another one. In this talk I want to highlight how the development of Positron Emission Tomography, and of functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging changed the picture of emotion and cognition, and brought about the “turn to emotion” in the public sphere that we witnessed at the turn of the twenty-first century.

Claudia Wassmann

About the Author:

Claudia Wassmann works in the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, where she is the Dewitt Stetten, Jr., Memorial Fellow in the History of Biomedical Sciences and Technology. She trained as a physician, receiving her M.D. summa cum laude from the University of Düsseldorf, but has devoted her professional life to science and medical journalism. She is an editor and producer with the science unit of German public television, Süddeutscher Rundfunk, in Heidelberg. Several of her programs have won major awards, most recently a 45-minute documentary called “Schizophrenia: The Biology of Madness.” Wassmann also writes medical articles for German newspapers and magazines. During her medical training, she worked at the University of Bologna Medical Clinic in pediatric surgery and at Djougou Hospital in Benin. Outside interests include reading, movies, travel, photography and the fine arts.

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