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Language, Interaction and Frontotemporal Dementia Reverse Engineering the Social Mind by Andrea W. Mates

Language, Interaction and Frontotemporal Dementia Reverse Engineering the Social Mind


Language, Interaction and Frontotemporal Dementia Reverse Engineering the Social Mind by Andrea W. Mates

In the past before improving technologies allowed for the direct observation of brain activity, brain damaged patients were a prime avenue for understanding language structure and inferring back to brain function. Now with the rapid developments in neuroscience, what has been discovered about the brain can inform our view of language allowing us to build hypotheses about the role particular brain regions perform in language use. Brain damaged patients thus become populations which serve as test cases. While technologies in neuroscience have improved, so has our understanding and techniques for observing and analyzing social and communicative behavior. FTD patients have right hemisphere, frontal and temporal pole atrophy which leaves their cognitive abilities intact, but their social interactions impaired and their personalities changed. The description of FTD as a pathological change in social behavior provides the motivation in this volume to apply ethnomethodological and conversation analytic approaches to the organization of patients' interactions. These approaches do more than document the disease and its effects on loved ones by revealing phenomena that can be analyzed empirically as causing systematic changes in the patients' social interactions. This volume opens with a discussion of the frontal lobes and their expected involvement in language use and social interaction. Several chapters then use conversation analysis to examine a range of FTD social behaviors in real-world interactions both in and outside of the clinic. The remaining chapters show how the ethnomethodological approach applied throughout the book can be helpful in better understanding the neurobiology of discourse, the process of socialization, and the role of social motives and moral emotions in maintaining relationships.


'Language, Interaction and Frontotemporal Dementia represents a wonderful example of neuroanthropological research, mixing together insights from neurology, linguistics and anthropology to examine a specific problem, and doing ethnographic research that is informed by ideas about how neural functions shape language use, social interactions and this particular type of dementia. I also deeply appreciate the mix of theoretical and applied work.'
Daniel Lende, Department of Anthropology, University of Notre Dame, Public Library of Science Blogs, October 14, 2010

About the Author

Andrea W. Mates is Researcher at the Neurobiology of Language Research Group, UCLA. Lisa Mikesell is Researcher at the Semel Institute Center for Health Services and Society, UCLA. Michael Sean Smith recently completed his PhD the Department of Applied Linguistics, UCLA.

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Book Info

Publication date

1st December 2013


Andrea W. Mates

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Equinox Publishing Ltd


278 pages


Semantics, discourse analysis, etc
Social & cultural anthropology, ethnography



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