Foundation for Psychocultural Research

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The Foundation for Psychocultural Research (The FPR) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Los Angeles that supports and advances interdisciplinary and integrative research and training on interactions of culture, neuroscience, psychiatry, and psychology, with an emphasis on cultural processes as central.

History[edit]

The FPR was founded in December 1999 with a gift from Robert Lemelson,[1] a documentary filmmaker and psychological anthropologist on the faculty of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). The FPR supports undergraduate programs, graduate programs, conferences, book publications, and other scholarly activities that encourage an interdisciplinary approach by bringing together experts from the neurosciences, psychology, psychiatry, and anthropology.

Activities[edit]

The FPR is a key supporter of the FPR-UCLA Center for Culture, Brain, and Development (CBD) and the FPR-Hampshire College Program in Culture, Brain, and Development. The FPR CBD programs foster integrative, cross-disciplinary research that focuses on how culture and context interact with brain development. In 2009 it created a program for Culture, Brain, Development, and Mental Health (CBDMH). The primary objective of CBDMH, which is co-directed by psychological anthropologist Doug Hollan of UCLA and cultural psychologist Steve López of USC, is to establish a strong program in cultural psychiatry, with an emphasis on integrating neuroscience and social science perspectives. The research initiative is based around ongoing, sustainable field sites and programs in various locations across the globe. A training component is embedded within each of the ongoing research projects.

In addition, through a series of workshops and conferences, the FPR brings together scholars, researchers, and clinicians with overlapping interests to think across disciplinary boundaries in order to address social issues of fundamental concern.

Participants from these meetings have contributed papers to two integrative volumes in the fields of developmental psychobiology, cultural and biological anthropology, and the study of psychological trauma: Understanding Trauma: Integrating Biological, Clinical, and Cultural Perspectives (Cambridge University Press, 2007), edited by cultural psychiatrist Laurence Kirmayer (McGill University), Robert Lemelson, and physician/neuroscientist Mark Barad (UCLA), and Formative Experiences: The Interaction of Caregiving, Culture, and Developmental Psychobiology (Cambridge University Press, 2010), edited by biocultural anthropologist Carol M. Worthman (Emory University), developmental psychobiologist Paul M. Plotsky (Emory University), child psychiatrist Daniel Schechter (Université de Genève), and FPR project director Constance A. Cummings.

A third volume (Re-Visioning Psychiatry: Cultural Phenomenology, Critical Neuroscience, and Global Mental Health) which was published in July 2015, is based on the FPR’s 4th interdisciplinary conference, Cultural and Biological Contexts of Psychiatric Disorder: Implications for Diagnosis and Treatment, which was held at UCLA in January 2010.

Conferences on Mixed Methods[edit]

Participants in the FPR’s first interdisciplinary workshop at Ojai in June 2001 advocated mixed method approaches that recognize and integrate multiple levels of analysis – from biological processes like postpartum olfactory learning, to psychological concepts like attachment, to social, cultural, economic, and political conditions affecting mother-infant interactions – as well as the variation in human environments, behaviors, and experiences (FPR, 2001). Exploring the human genome and its epigenetic states, the biological roots of human sociality, and the mutual constitution of cultures and selves, as well as the complex interactions between the physical, cultural, and social environments underlying health and illness, with the goal to create models that integrate theory and method across these fields. The fifth FPR conference, Culture, Mind, and Brain: Emerging Concepts, Methods, Applications, took place at UCLA in October 2012. The two-day conference was organized with the support of the International Cultural Neuroscience Consortium.

The aim was to highlight emerging concepts, methodologies and applications in the study of culture, mind, and brain, with particular attention to: (1) neuroscience research that incorporates culture and the social world; (2) the context in which methods are used as well as the tacit assumptions that shape research questions; and (3) the kinds and quality of collaborations that advance interdisciplinary research training. The meeting was attended by biologists, neuroscientists, psychologists, anthropologists, sociologists, epidemiologists, and those in related fields interested in learning about mixed-methods research at the intersection of culture, mind, and brain. The twenty-nine speakers included psychologist John Cacioppo, anthropologist Tanya Luhrmann, and neuroscientist Stephen Suomi.

2015 Conference on Sex and Gender[edit]

The FPR held its sixth interdisciplinary conference at UCLA in October 2015. This conference occurred at a critical juncture in sex/gender research in neuroscience, anthropology, psychology, and related disciplines. New theories are utilizing a conception of the brain as dynamic, plastic, and adaptable, and of sex/gender brain and behavioral differences as subject to the influence of a broad range of biological, cultural, and social or environmental factors. In organizing this conference, the aim was to bring the neuro- and social sciences together to consider three cross-cutting questions on sex/gender: why now? what’s fixed/changing/changeable? what’s at stake?

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