Funder(s): Arts and Humanities Research Council
MI Researcher(s): Shawn Harmon, Gill Haddow, Graeme Laurie

The Banking (On) The Brain Project was a multidisciplinary study funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council that integrated the learning of – and generated new knowledge relevant to – a range of arts and humanities fields. Through close association with scientific researchers, the project determined whether and how discourses emerging from humanities disciplines and popular culture are encoded by law in the regulation of biomedicine.

The Project investigated key issues relating to the interaction of culture, law, regulation, and science, using brain banking as a case study and explored several questions namely:

  • What is the nature, value and limits of brain banking and its regulation?
  • What roles do imagination, engagement, and cultural concepts play in supporting and informing (or thwarting) the brain banking endeavour?
  • What might the regulation of brain banking – as an instance of an emerging medically-valued scientific practice – tell us about the culture-law-science nexus and the interactions between these domains?

This Project found that the brain is salient in legal debates around death and injury compensation, but it is treated like any other tissue/organ when it comes to science regulation. BBs are governed by de jure law and de facto regulation emerging from routinized practice and codes of conduct. Despite resonance of issues and concerns between BBs and other types of biobanks, dialogue about the ethical, legal and cultural aspects and implications of the work in these domains remains limited. More broadly, neurologic knowledge is contributing 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 BBs, and the practice and meanings of law. Regarding collaboration, this Project shows how the ambiguities and ambivalences that differences between intellectual traditions might produce can be leveraged to animate new interdisciplinary conversations, initiatives, and innovations.