Geography and neuroscience: critical engagements with geography’s ‘neural turn’

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Colleges, School and Institutes


Geographers are increasingly interested in understanding the significance of developments in neuroscience, psychology and the behavioural sciences. Indeed, consideration of these disciplines has arguably shaped the trajectories of human geography since at least the 1960s, but its ‘neural turn’ has only recently been acknowledged. This paper provides an original analysis of the intersections of research on neuroscience and geography. With reference to qualitative interviews with cognitive scientists and neuroscientists based in the UK, it identifies how geographical concepts have been approached within contemporary neuroscience while also identifying the broad trajectories of geographers’ engagements with neuroscience. The discussion demonstrates the political implications of these disciplinary trends for a geographical account of brain culture and brain-based explanations in policy and practice. Specifically it proposes the development of a ‘critical neuro-geography’ capable of providing an overarching analysis of these phenomena. The paper’s novel synthesis of hitherto disconnected engagements between geography, cognitive science and neuroscience establishes the rationale for a more sustained and critical engagement between neuroscience and geography sensitive to issues of situated subjectivity, power, inequality and difference.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)154-169
JournalTransactions of the Institute of British Geographers
Issue number2
Early online date6 Oct 2017
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2018


  • Neuroscience, cognitive science, psychology, geographical thought, embodied cognition , subjectivity