It isn't that they shouldn't, but some words, posed as category mistakes, don't seem to go together. For instances, consider waves and particles, "genomic environment" or, as is the case in the title under review, "social neuroscience." These odd couples seem to grind against each other, as if repelled to opposite places in long established categories like tectonic plates whose shifting juxtaposition shambles an established order. This antonymic phenomenon highlights a problem that has confronted science-makers stretching back at least as far as Plato and Aristotle and on to Descartes, Popper, and contemporary philosophers of science. The problem is this. To study, we take things apart, introducing vast vocabularies of particularization. To understand more comprehensively, we put these particulars back together, meshing, overlapping, integrating, and harmonizing the cacophony of disciplinary vocabularies. These are not either/or processes. It was so much easier in thought networks like those of the Zuni who saw ever so clearly that there was no such distinction between a wave and the sea itself. They called it "slosh."
FOUNDATIONS IN SOCIAL NEUROSCIENCE is a hefty volume (1357 pages) demonstrating that neuroscience is now old enough to be married to human adaptive experience. Like the Zuni word "slosh" it reminds us that nature abhors boundaries as well as vacuums. FOUNDATIONS evidences meaningful synthesis and integration, working up and down the conceptual ladder from the micro to the macro and back again. Transduction processes are explicated from mRNA to hormonal development to tactile comforting to social capital and then back to mRNA, as environmental circumstances feed forward and back to affect neurophysiological and neurochemical ones in the ongoing dynamics of human adaptation.
FOUNDATIONS IN SOCIAL NEUROSCIENCE is also, in a sense, a birth announcement of a novel interdiscipline. This is concretized in a very unusual arrangement, the kind one comes to expect from The University of Chicago, where John T. Cacioppo, the first listed editor of this volume, is the Tiffany & Margaret Blake Distinguished Service Professor, Director of the Social Psychology Program AND Director of the Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience. Other editors include Gary G. Berntson, Ralph Adolphs, C. Sue Carter and eight others whose names are a Who's Who in the biological and social sciences. Thus FOUNDATIONS might well be called the bible of this newly emerging integrative program, with newer testaments added by professors Cacioppo and Berntson and colleagues more recently. (Cf. J.T. Cacioppo & G.G. Berntson, Eds., ESSAYS IN SOCIAL NEUROSCIENCE, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2004; J.T. Cacioppo & G.G. Berntson, Eds.. SOCIAL NEUROSCIENCE: KEY READINGS. New York: Psychology Press, 2004; J.T. Cacioppo, P.S. Visser, & C.L. Pickett, Eds.. SOCIAL NEUROSCIENCE: PEOPLE THINKING ABOUT THINKING PEOPLE. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2005.
A short list of FOUNDATIONS accomplishments includes 1) the significant effort toward the creation of harmony out of the disciplines of genetics, physiology, immunology, endocrinology, neuroscience, cognitive psychology, personality psychology and sociology 2) the description of a relatively seamless connectedness from DNA to social experience to DNA, 3) the taxonomic outline of Social Neuroscience as a scientific interdiscipline: (A) Multilevel Integrative Analysis of Social Behavior, (B) Social Cognition and the Brain, (C) Social Neuroscience of Motivation, Emotion, and Attitudes, (D) Biology of Social Relationships and Interpersonal Processes, (E) Social Influences on Biology and Health, and 4) the collection of seminal research in social neuroscience between the covers of one very big book. At least implicitly, numerous chapters challenge Francis Crick's "Central Dogma" and the notion of locked in and closed off genetic material impervious to adaptive environmental influences.
FOUNDATIONS has 83 chapters but the one by Liu, Diorio, et al. (Chap. 48: Maternal care, hippocampal glucocorticoid receptors and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal responses to stress), which reports on the research program from the Montreal laboratory of Michael Meaney at McGill, gives a very good sense of the integration from mRNA to hormonal and neural development to social activity and then back again to mRNA. The authors pick up on the work of Levine a half century ago on the post-partum handling of rat pups, who when compared to non-handled ones, had reduced responses to stress. Levine's work revealed that the handling affected the stress response including hormonal release (adrenal corticosterone). Liu and colleagues report on a series of experiments showing that handling affects pup behavior (increased ultrasonic vocalizations), which affects maternal care (pattern of licking and grooming), which affects variability in the expression of mRNA in various systems, which affects neural and hormonal system development (parvocellular neurons of the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus), which affects inhibitory feedback of the stress response (in rats, level of release of corticotrophin releasing hormone) and raises the possibility of non-genomic modes of inheritance. (For more on non-genomic inheritance see: E. Jablonka & M.J. Lamb, EVOLUTION IN FOUR DIMENSIONS. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2005).
FOUNDATIONS is an extraordinary exposition that is a must read for life and social scientists as well as those life-long learners interested in human adaptation. An excellent companion volume is by Bruce S. McEwen and H. Maurice Goodman, Eds.. HANDBOOK OF PHYSIOLOGY: COPING WITH THE ENVIRONMENT: Vol. IV. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2001. See also, A. R. Cellura's THE GENOMIC ENVIRONMENT AND NICHE-EXPERIENCE. Abbeville, SC: Cedar Springs Press, 2005, for the confluence of genomic influences, central nervous system development, economic regimes, ecological niches, caloric intake, stature, morbidity and mortality.