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Buffering Porosity and Brain Health in Uganda

Director: Ian Corbin, Co-Director: Cyrus Olsen

Institution: Brigham and Women's Hospital

This study seeks to examine the role played by social networks – human and non-human – in influencing health-seeking behaviors associated with brain health in Uganda. This study aims to determine the various ways that social networks impact treatment-seeking for a group of 50 participants in Uganda and to develop from the data a theory of the benefits and dangers of viewing humans as “porous” or readily influenced by outside forces and actors, in the context of healthcares. The researchers hypothesize that kinship relations, including ancestral and spiritual actors, strongly influence health-seeking behavior and thus must be studied qualitatively and quantitatively to ensure sound principles guide future health interventions.

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Ian Marcus Corbin is at work on Friendship: Philosophical Notes on Belonging in America for Yale University Press. The book combines insights from Ian’s interdisciplinary work with the HNI, with his study of Aristotle, Nietzsche, Charles Taylor, and contemporary science to engage fundamental human questions about friendship with oneself, one’s human community, and the natural world.

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Unshared Minds, Decaying Worlds: Towards a Pathology of Chronic Illness

Ian Marcus Corbin and Amar Dhand

In press at Oxford University Press's Journal of Medicine and Philosophy

The moment when a person’s actual relationships fall short of her desired relationships is commonly identified as the etiological moment of chronic loneliness, which can lead to physical and psychological effects like depression, worse recovery from illness and increased mortality. But this etiology fails to explain the nature and severe impact of loneliness. Here, we use philosophical analysis and neuroscience to show that humans develop and maintain our world-picture (our sense of what is true, important and good) through joint attention and action, motivated by friendship, in the Aristotelian sense of “other selves” who share a sense of the true and the good, and desire the good for each other as much as for themselves. The true etiological event of loneliness is the moment one’s world-picture becomes unshared. The pathogenesis is a resultant decay of our worldpicture, with brain and behavior changes following as sequelae.

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Ian Corbin co-directs the Trust and Belonging Initiative at Harvard’s Human Flourishing Program. The initiative aims to carry out empirical, historical, philosophical, and theological research on how strong social connections (close, loose, civic, etc.) affect various aspects of flourishing including cognitive health, physical health, life satisfaction, work, meaning and purpose, and character development. 


Social Networks and Risk of Delayed Hospital Arrival After Acute Stroke

Dhand, A., Luke, D., Lang, C., Tsiaklides, M., Feske, S., and Lee, J-M. 

Nature Communications 10, pp. 1206

March 2019

Arriving rapidly to the hospital during a stroke is critical for treatment. Understanding the collective process using network methods is an important factor of arrival time to the hospital at the onset of symptoms. We studied closely how networks of highly familiar contacts, independent of external lifestyle factors, is related to delay.


A Scalable Online Tool for Quantitative Social Network Assessment Reveals Potentially Modifiable Social Environmental Risks 

Dhand, A., White, C. C., Johnson, C., Xia, Z, and De Jager, P. L. 

Nature Communications 9, pp. 3930

Sept 2018

Dhand et al. (2018) have developed a quantitative social network assessment tool that captures the structure and composition of a personal network including specific persons, their relationships to each other, and their health habits. An updated version of the instrument called “Personal Network Survey for Clinical Research” is available in the REDCap Shared Library. We have also uploaded a comprehensive R codebase for researchers who use the instrument to analyze and visualize their data available at: R code used specifically for this project can be made available upon request.

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