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Title: Relationality and health : developing a transversal neurotheological account of the pathways linking social connection, immune function, and health outcomes
Author: Bennett, Patricia Helen
Awarding Body: Oxford Brookes University
Current Institution: Oxford Brookes University
Date of Award: 2013
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This thesis is a transdisciplinary investigation of the link between social connection and health outcomes. Its twofold aim is to explore the nature of this relationship and build a theoretical model for a possible causal chain between the two, and to develop and deploy a new model for engaging the very different discourses of theology and neuroscience. To this end it draws on both theological reflection and on experimental scientific data from cognitive neuroscience and psychoneuroimmunology. The opening half of the work establishes the wider epistemological and methodological frameworks within which the project is set, and also the specific framework for the particular area of study. The first of these involves a critical analysis of the tensions at the heart of the dialogue between science and religion, and of the specific difficulties faced by the emerging sub-discipline of neurotheology. It then dissects and further develops the interdisciplinary dialogical model devised by J Wentzel van Huyssteen, in order to enable it to generate and support additional transdisciplinary outputs. In the second of the two framework arenas, the concept of health itself is first explored, and then epidemiological, Biblical, and immunological accounts of the link between relational connection and health are examined in order to establish that sufficient common ground exists to warrant a neurotheological approach to investigating the question of how the two are connected. The second half of the thesis then uses the developed model as a basis for engaging theological and neuroscientific perspectives on human relationality. This takes the form of three transversal encounters, each centred around a specific aspect of this: relationality as basic, as emergent, and as realised. From the output of these three dialogical interactions, a neurotheologically framed argument is developed to support the contention that relationality is an emergent phenomenon of a complex system concerned with social monitoring and response, and thus the way in which it is realised can exert causal constraints on system components. Finally a theoretical model is derived from this argument for a pathway linking relational experience to health outcomes via alterations in allostatic maintenance mechanisms.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available