Former FPR-CBD Grad Student/Cultural Neuroscientist Liz Losin joins PLOS Neuroanthropology!

We are very pleased to announce that cultural neuroscientist Liz Losin, a former graduate student in the FPR-UCLA Culture, Brain, and Development program and now a postdoc in Tor Wager’s neuroimaging  lab at the University of Colorado, has joined PLOS Neuroanthropology as a blogger! Liz will be writing about recent advances in the field. You can read her first post here.

The neuroanthropology blog is co-authored by anthropologists Greg Downey (Macquarie University; @GregDowney1) and Daniel Lende (University of South Florida; @daniel_lende), who are also co-editors of a foundational work in neuroanthropology, The Encultured Brain (MIT, December 2012).

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Liz, Greg, and Daniel helped us organize the FPR-UCLA Culture, Mind, and Brain Conference last October. Greg chaired the first session (“Why Culture, Mind, and Brain””), Daniel chaired a session on stress and resilience, and Liz was a panelist on “Multiple Pathways to Interdisciplinarity”).

Be sure to check out the blog at PLOS Neuroanthropology and the neuroanth Facebook page.


Haunted by trauma, tsunami survivors in Japan turn to exorcists (Reuters)

The following was posted by medical anthropologist Sadeq Rahimi (University of Saskatchewan) on McGill’s Division of Transcultural Psychiatry listserv.

Source: Reuters
Tuesday, Mar 5, 2013

The tsunami that engulfed northeastern Japan two years ago has left some survivors believing they are seeing ghosts. In a society wary of admitting to mental problems, many are turning to exorcists for help.

Tales of spectral figures lined up at shops where now there is only rubble are what psychiatrists say is a reaction to fear after the March 11, 2011, disaster in which nearly 19,000 people were killed.

“The places where people say they see ghosts are largely those areas completely swept away by the tsunami,” said Keizo Hara, a psychiatrist in the city of Ishinomaki, one of the areas worst-hit by the waves touched off by an offshore earthquake.

“We think phenomena like ghost sightings are perhaps a mental projection of the terror and worries associated with those places.” Hara said post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) might only now be emerging in many people, and the country could be facing a wave of stress-related problems.

“It will take time for PTSD to emerge for many people in temporary housing for whom nothing has changed since the quake,” he said. Shinichi Yamada escaped the waves that destroyed his home and later salvaged two Buddhist statues from the wreckage. But when he brought them back to the temporary housing where he lived, he said strange things began to happen. His two children suddenly got sick and an inexplicable chill seemed to follow the family through the house, he said. “A couple of times when I was lying in bed, I felt something walking across me, stepping across my chest,” Yamada said.

Many people in Japan hold on to ancient superstitions despite its ultra-modern image. Yamada, like many other people in the area, turned to exorcist Kansho Aizawa for help. Aizawa, 56, dressed in a black sweater and trousers and with dangling pearl earrings, said in an interview in her home that she had seen numerous ghosts.

“There are headless ghosts, and some missing hands or legs. Others are completely cut in half,” she said. “People were killed in so many different ways during the disaster and they were left like that in limbo.

So it takes a heavy toll on us, we see them as they were when they died.” In some places destroyed by the tsunami, people have reported seeing ghostly apparitions queuing outside supermarkets which are now only rubble.

Taxi drivers said they avoided the worst-hit districts for fear of picking up phantom passengers. “At first, people came here wanting to find the bodies of their family members. Then they wanted to find out exactly how that person died, and if their spirit was at peace,” Aizawa said. As time passed, people’s requests changed.

“They’ve started wanting to transmit their own messages to the dead,” Aizawa said. Shinichi Yamada said life had improved since he put the two Buddhist statues in a shrine and prayed. He still believes the statues are haunted, but now thinks their spirits are at peace.



LA Film Screening (March 26, 2013): “Standing on the Edge of a Thorn” w/ Q&A with Robert Lemelson, Alessandra Pasquino, & Ima Matul

“Standing on the Edge of a Thorn” Film Screening Followed by Q & A and Reception

Women in Film International Committee / Cast LA / Elemental Productions

Tuesday, March 26, 2013 at 7:30 PM

Culver City, CA


Doors open at 6:45 p.m. Screening starts at 7:30 p.m.

By 12 p.m, Tues., March 26. Photo ID mandatory for entry–make sure name matches RSVP. Print out ticket confirmation for easier access and allow time to clear security gate.

Free at Culver Studios, enter Gate 2, off Ince Blvd.

Film Screening
“Standing on the Edge of a Thorn” 
is a short film about the family and community origins of prostitution and sex trafficking in rural Indonesia. Shot over 12 years, it‘s an intimate portrait of a family that descends into the sex trade, amidst poverty and mental illness. “Thorn” shines a light on the conflicts and conditions that propel women to sell their bodies (and the bodies of their children) for monetary gain.  (32 min / Documentary short / English subtitles)


Robert Lemelson
 – director and anthropologist, Elemental Productions
Alessandra Pasquino
 – producer, Elemental Productions
Ima Matul
 – organizer and survivor, The Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking (CAST).
At seventeen, Ima was trafficked for forced labor from Indonesia to Los Angeles and is a former
CAST client.

Moderator: Sandro Monetti, journalist and author

The panelists will discuss filmmaking from both an anthropological and documentary prospective. What are the challenges of bringing a controversial topic to the screen? Of finding subjects willing to open up to the camera? Of working as a male director on women’s issues? The speakers will also address the difficulties of filming in a developing nation and the indispensable role of local contacts and crew. Robert Lemelson will tap his decade of ethnographic filmmaking in Indonesia, while Ima Matul will speak to her work at CAST LA as an advocate for victims of sex trafficking.

Dessert and wine