The Urban Brain Lab, established by the Urban Brain Research Programme, is an experiment in resetting the relations between the sociological and neurobiological sciences. Initially funded by an ESRC ‘Transforming Social Science’ grant, the Lab investigates ‘urbanicity’ – the connections between the social and the neurological lives of urban citizens, with particular attention to mental health. The relationship between urban life and mental health has been a topic of longstanding interest in the social sciences – but is also now receiving particular attention within the neurobiological and psychiatric sciences, as investigators try to see whether the effects and process of city living can actually be measured at the level of the brain. The Urban Brain Lab is an attempt to put these two interests together. It asks: can urban sociologists and neuroscientists work together, in order to better map the complex interactions between the socio-political life of the city and the development of psychiatric problems? But as it pursues this question, the Lab is also trying to show that there may be room for a different kind of relationship between sociology and the biosciences. Aligning itself with what the microbiologists and physicist Carl Woese has called ‘a new biology for a new century,’ the Lab asks: what would it mean to also come up with ‘a new sociology for a new century’?
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