neuroimaging is widely regarded as the key to understanding what we do, but the authors of a controversial new book, brainwashing, claim this approach is erroneous and dangerous
You've seen the headlines: This is your brain on love. O God. Or want. O happiness. And reliably accompanied by images of brains sunny colors - Explorations in capturing Buddhist meditation for cocaine like monks and students who choose Coke over Pepsi. The media - and even some neuroscientists think - like to invoke the neural basis of human behavior to explain everything from the Bernie Madoff financial fiasco slavish devotion to our iPhones, sexual indiscretions of politicians, dismissal of global warming and conservative an obsession with self-tanner.
brains are great at school, too. Take a map of all the major universities and you can follow the progress of neuroscience research laboratories and health centers in schools of law and business and economics and philosophy departments. In recent years, neuroscience has merged with a number of other disciplines, new spawning areas of study as neurolaw, neuroeconomics, neurophilosophy, neuromarketing and Neurofinance. The brain was obtained in these unlikely redoubts as English departments where teachers wonder if the brain scanner subjects as they read passages from Jane Austen's novels is a) successful research on the power of literature, or b ) desperate to inject innovation in an area that has exhausted its romance with psychoanalysis and postmodernism attempt. As a brand new cultural artifact, the brain is depicted in paintings, sculptures and tapestries and put on display in museums and galleries. As a scientist, "if Warhol was alive today, he would have a series of silkscreens dedicated to the cortex, the amygdala is hung next to Marilyn Monroe"
Obviously brains are hot. The ability to solve the riddle deep humanity has ever seen - yes - through the study of the brain has captivated researchers and scientists for centuries. But never the brain involved with such force the public's imagination. The main impetus behind this enthusiasm is a form of brain imaging called functional MRI or fMRI, an instrument that measures brain activity and makes the vibrant iconic images are now in the pages of the journal Science.
As a tool to explore the biology of the mind, neuroimaging has been brain science with a strong cultural presence. As one scientist said, brain imaging are "planetary Bohr atom replacing the symbol of science." With its implicit promise to decode the brain, it is easy to see why images of the brain fool almost anyone interested in drawing the curtain on the mental life of other politicians who hope to manipulate the attitudes of voters, officers legislation infallible lie detector, brain playing marketers learn what consumers really want to buy, addiction researchers that attempt to measure the strength of temptation, and defense lawyers fighting to prove that their clients do not have malicious intent or free will.
The problem is that brain imaging can not do any of these things -. At least for the moment
author Tom Wolfe was typically prophetic when he wrote of fMRI in 1996, a few years after its introduction: "Anyone who cares about getting up early and take a truly dazzling dawn of the 21st century want to maintain an eye on him. "Now, we can not look away.Why
fixing? First, of course, not the same issue of exploration: the brain, the organ of our deepest self. More complex structure than any of the known universe, the brain is a masterpiece of nature with cognitive powers that far exceed the capabilities of a machine built to emulate silicon. It contains about 80 billion brain cells called neurons, each of which communicates with thousands of other neurons, the world ? 3 cradled between our ears has more connections than there are stars in the Milky Way. How this huge building of subjective feelings neurons leads to one of the greatest mysteries of science and philosophy.
scan images of the brain are not what they seem. There are images of the brain in action in real time. Scientists can not simply look "in" the brain and see what he does. These beautiful images of mottled colors are actually representations of specific areas of the brain that work hard - as measured by the increase in oxygen consumption - when a subject performs a task such as reading a passage or respond to stimuli, such as images of faces. The powerful computer in the scanning device converts changes in oxygen levels caramel color family spots indicating areas of the brain that are most active during the execution of the subject. Despite well-founded conclusions, the biggest challenge of the image is that it is very difficult for scientists to look at a fireplace in a brain scanner and conclude exactly what happens in the mind of the person.
years, as the season of the presidential election of 2008 was in preparation, a team of neuroscientists at UCLA tried to solve the riddle of undecided voters or swing. They scanned the brains of undecided voters who responded to photos and videos of the candidates. The researchers translated brain activity resulting from tacit attitudes of voters and, with three political advisers a company based in Washington, called FKF Applied Research, presented their findings to the
New York Times in an opinion article entitled "This is your brain on politics." Readers can view scans for access points dotted tangerine and neon yellow indicating regions "lit" when subjects been exposed to images of Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Rudy Giuliani, and the rest of the candidates. Revealed in these activity patterns, the authors argued, were "impressions of voters in this election that could turn ". These impressions were that two candidates had completely failed to "engage" with the undecided voters. Who were these unpopular politicians? John McCain and Barack Obama, the two potential presidential candidates.
press offices of the University are known for retail in the tabloid media of the environment: this is a place that lights up when subjects think of God ("Religion Center found! ") O researchers find a region in love (" Love is in the brain "). Neuroscientists sometimes appropriate derogatory reference to these studies as "blobology" sealing his tongue in cheek studies showing that brain areas are activated as test subjects
or do and
task.scientists journalists grind teeth when I read accounts that say the scanners can capture the spirit itself in action. Perpetrators of serious science strive to describe the quality of neuroscience research accuracy. Indeed, a flurry of discontent form. "Neuromania", "neurohubris" and "neurohype" - "neuro-balls", if you are a British - are some of the labels that have been distributed, neuroscientists sometimes frustrated themselves
too interpret brain scans can truly be consistent when the concerns of the real world in the balance. Consider the law. When a person commits a crime, who is to blame: the author or the brain? Now, of course, this is a false choice. If biology has taught us anything, it is that "the brain" and "me" is a false distinction. However, if the biological roots can be identified - and, better yet, taken on a brain scan as patches of juicy color - it's too easy for non-professionals who assume that the conduct in question must be "organic" and thus "connected" involuntary or uncontrollable. Criminal lawyers, which is not surprising, attracting more and more images of the brain show supposed to be a biological defect that "make" their customers commit murder.
the future, some neuroscientists provide a radical transformation of the criminal law. Neuroscientist David Eagleman, meanwhile, hosts a time when "one day we can see that many types of misconduct have a biological explanation based [and] the time to think badly of decision-making in the same way thinking any physical process, such as diabetes or lung disease. "As it happens, he predicts," most judges place Sentenced not guilty side of the line. " But is this the right conclusion to draw from the data of neuroscience? After all, if all behavior is ultimately attributed to the activity of the brain correlates detectable, it means that one day I can write undesirable behavior in my my-brain theory non-fault-blame crime?scientists have made great strides in reducing the complexity of brain organization body intact its constituent neurons containing proteins, genes, etc.. With this model, we can see how human thought and action are developed in different levels of explanation, working from the most basic elements. In one of the lowest levels of the hierarchy is the neurobiological level, including the brain and its constituent cells. Genes direct neuronal development, neurons in brain circuits assembled. Information processing, or computation, and dynamics of neural networks oscillate up. At the intermediate level are conscious mental states such as thoughts, feelings, perceptions, knowledge and intentions. Social and cultural contexts, which play an important role in the formation of our mental contents and behavior in the highest hierarchy landings.
According to neuroscientist Sam Harris, brain research over time and explain in detail the spirit and therefore human nature. Ultimately, he says, neuroscience - and should dictate human values. Semir Zeki, a neuroscientist and British jurist Oliver Goodenough from the future "," ancient ", perhaps a few decades away [when] a good knowledge of the justice system of the brain and how the brain reacts to the conflict can provide critical tools in solving international economic and political conflicts. " No less impressive than the neuroscientist Michael Gazzaniga expect a "brain-based philosophy of life" based on an ethic that is "built into our brains. Much suffering, war and conflict could be eliminated if we live according to more consciously. "