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This chapter describes the multiple meanings of neural plasticity in scientific research, as well as the use of plasticity to account for scientific findings of brain difference by sex and class. The chapter identifies the difficulties with conceptualizing and measuring human sameness and difference in the brain. It highlights the risks of essentializing social categories and fixing them in the developing brain—for example, in the brains of poor and minority children. The chapter argues that neuroscientific practices have an effect on (are part of) the phenomena they seek to measure, and thus the plastic brain can be understood as materially performative.

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