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Gerber Lucie

PhD student in History and Sociology of Science, EHESS

Postgraduate program: Science, Technology, Knowledge: History and Society, Centre Alexandre Koyré, EHESS

Dissertation scholarship from the Fondation Plan Alzheimer (December 2011-November 2014)

Contact: lucie.gerber(at)ehess.fr

Thesis defended on 17 December 2016: Animal modeling, production of knowledge, and therapeutic innovation in the fields of Alzheimer’s disease and depression – 1950-2010

Under the supervision of Jean-Paul Gaudillière

Use of model organisms in medical and biological research has been the subject of much work in the history and philosophy of medicine. In the social-science literature, however, the focus has been on somatic diseases, not mental disorders. The usual dilemmas of biomedical sciences are found for all pathologies, but they are supplemented with a whole series of problems particular to the animal-modeling plan for the complex and multi-factor disorders affecting emotions, will, and cognition. Animal modeling procedures have grown in importance since the 1960s, providing the technical, as well as the cognitive basis on which the methods of production of knowledge on mental pathology have been reorganized.

This dissertation examines the problematic articulation between biomedicine and mental medicine by comparing the history of animal-modeling activities in the fields of depression and Alzheimer’s disease. The investigation explores the recent reconfiguration of each of these diseases through the lens of a social and historical analysis of modeling activities, questioning the close mutual connections between experimental procedures, medical- and therapeutic-research practices, and the policy management of mental pathologies. Through a comparative study of these two trajectories, this dissertation aims to apprehend the characteristics of the contemporary “scientification” of mental pathologies, the historical conditions of its development, and its lasting underlying tensions.

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