BSP Podcast: Prisca Bauer on neurology beyond the brain

podcast update

Continuing Season 5 of our podcast, Prisca Bauer kicks off a series of 3 episodes “Engaging phenomenology in the neurosciences”.

Season 5 episode 92: 7 November 2020

Season five of our podcast continues with a panel presentation from our 2020 annual conference: ‘Engaged Phenomenology’ Online. This episode features Prisca Bauer who was one of three speakers (along with Valeria Bizzari and Francesca Brencio) on the preconstituted panel “Engaging phenomenology in the neurosciences”. Bizzari and Brencio’s presentations will be released in the next two episodes of the BSP Podcast. To begin, here is Bauer from the Department of Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy University Medical Center, Freiburg Faculty of Medicine, University of Freiburg.

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Prisca Bauer
‘Engaged phenomenology: neurology beyond the brain’

ABSTRACT: The burden of neurological conditions is enormous and steadily increasing. When including stroke, neurological conditions are the main cause of disability-adjusted life-years. Modern medicine is based on a strict division between body and mind. As a consequence, neurological conditions are reduced to conditions of the brain, yet they have a profound impact on the experience of people affected by them. Phenomenological accounts are not routinely considered in the diagnostic or therapeutic processes in neurology. I will show the potential of using a systematic phenomenological approach to improve care in people with neurological conditions by taking epilepsy as an example. The main symptom of epilepsy, a condition affecting 1% of the population, is unpredictable seizures, which severely impact people’s lives. Our hypothesis is that through systematic interviews, people with epilepsy can learn to recognise subjective seizure “warning signs”. The recognition of these may help people to increase their safety around seizures, and to regain a sense of control over their unpredictability. I will present preliminary data from phenomenological interviews with people with epilepsy, and explorative analyses of the neural correlates of these subjective seizure “warning signs”. The combination of phenomenological and neural data has the potential to help to improve data-based seizure prediction algorhythms. This study is the first clinical implementation of the neurophenomenological paradigm first proposed by Francisco Varela. It shows how phenomenological and biological data can be used complementarily, and have the potential to greatly advance our understanding and management of neurological conditions, bridging the gap between the brain and experience.

BIO: Prisca Bauer is a physician (M.D) and scientist (PhD) at the Department of Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy of the University Medical Center Freiburg. Her main research interests are in neurological conditions, especially epilepsy, and in combining phenomenological and biological approaches.

This presentation is part of a preconstituted panel with Prisca Bauer, Valeria Bizzari, and Francesca Brencio. “Engaging phenomenology in the neurosciences”: Before becoming a subject of study in philosophy classes, phenomenology is the method that underpins all of science. Husserl conceived phenomenology as an a priori science of essences, but it has developed through other important authors during the beginning and first half of XX century (Gallagher & Zahavi, 2012; Moran, 2000; Zahavi, 2003). Engaging phenomenology in the contemporary scenario means embracing the legacy of the classics and also exploring its potential for different fields of knowledge, such as politics, public space, health. Phenomenology is a methodical effort to describe the basic structures inherent to conscious experience, such as embodiment, spatiality, temporality, intentionality, intersubjectivity, and to analyse their possible deviations and derailments (Fuchs, 2002). In recent years phenomenological approaches contributed to psychiatry and psychopathology by providing novel theoretical frameworks (Sass, Parnas, & Zahavi, 2011) and defining the subjective essence of experience more clearly. The aim of this panel is to explore how the phenomenological method can contribute to neurosciences through three different areas of research: to bridge the gap between the brain and lived experience allowing to understand mental disorders as not merely reducible to brain dysfunctions and brain disorders as consequence of abnormal mental experience; to offer a multidisciplinary account of autism, linking the role of the body and intercorporeality with recent findings in philosophy of neuroscience under the predictive brain hypothesis; and to improve care in people with epilepsy by implementing the neurophenomenological paradigm through systematic interviews, which allow people with epilepsy to recognise subjective seizure “warning signs”. The aim of the panel is to present findings already recognised by the scientific and academic community, and to go a step further by showing the necessity of a paradigm shift capable of improving the understanding and treatment of neurological conditions and neurodiversity.

This recording is taken from the BSP Annual Conference 2020 Online: ‘Engaged Phenomenology’. Organised with the University of Exeter and sponsored by Egenis and the Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health. BSP2020AC was held online this year due to global concerns about the Coronavirus pandemic. For the conference our speakers recorded videos, our keynotes presented live over Zoom, and we also recorded some interviews. Podcast episodes from BSP2020AC are soundtracks of those videos where we and the presenters feel the audio works as a standalone:

The British Society for Phenomenology is a not-for-profit organisation set up with the intention of promoting research and awareness in the field of Phenomenology and other cognate arms of philosophical thought. Currently, the society accomplishes these aims through its journal, events, and podcast. Why not find out more, join the society, and subscribe to our journal the JBSP?