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Impetuous Neuroscience: do we actually understand the brain?

Contemporary neuroscience is being rapidly implemented into fields of research beyond brain science and influencing the credibility of findings presented by the media. At first glance, the ability to monitor our neural functioning is revolutionary --- especially for a species obsessed with understanding itself. However, many scientists hold onto the findings of neuroscience with more skepticism than the magazine blurbs and blog posts lead the public to believe. Pop-science and pop-medicine have lead to detrimental outcomes in the past (e.g. lobotomies). Will the desire for instantly-applicable brain science push us to make further harmful mistakes?

Recent examples of hasty applications  are provided in a book published by Sally Satel and Scott Lillenfield titled "Brainwashed: the Seductive Allure of Mindless Neuroscience". The text illuminates the shadows cast by dubious news headlines on the field of brain science, without discrediting the practice and findings within the field.

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/elements/2013/06/the-problem-with-the-neuroscience-backlash.html

A New Yorker article (link above) on the topic briefly describes the backlash against applied neuroscientific findings and some of the fundamental discrepancies in the wake of such a rapid development of a novel method and field of research.

In this meetup we will discuss the current popular (and unpopular) explanations of the mind-brain relationship in the context of neuroscience and neuroimaging research methods.

We will also discuss the potential implications and recent publications that make hazardously broad claims including: court rulings and criminal activity, mood disorder differentiation and diagnosis, business decisions (i.e. neuromarketing), and addiction treatment.

Can we accurately say that we "understand" how the mind works via neuroimaging and the physiology of the brain? Neuroscience is certainly driving us towards a better understanding of the mind, but this meet-up will call into question the assumption that we are already there.



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  • Emily B

    Thanks everyone for such a great conversation! It sounds like there will be a second impetuous neuroscience discussion sometime soon, so if you were waitlisted or missed todays group, keep your eyes peeled for the posting. I appreciate everyones curiosity and new perspectives on the brain and brain science!!!

    1 · June 29, 2014

  • Beth R.

    Diverse and very interesting conversation.

    June 29, 2014

  • Patty

    Emily, thanks for a terrific discussion! This is a challenging topic.

    1 · June 29, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    great conversation, I "think" lol

    June 29, 2014

  • Lynn

    I am quite sorry but this week has been very crummy for me medically speaking, incidentally due to things we know about the brain well enough. My seat is empty after all, so grab it now if you want it. Wish I knew I couldn't go earlier.

    1 · June 29, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    yes the personality changes are very striking, my first six months after my injury I struggled with apathy and although its improved greatly, I still don't have a true sense of joy or sadness, everything is just on a even keel and I never feel rejuvenated no matter how good of a sleep I get, very frustrating, as much as I can feel(sense) frustration.

    June 24, 2014

    • Lynn

      I'm not going to tell you you should want what you have but my own brain has dealt with issues more subtle than directly anatomical damage. There are certainly times when I would have been more than happy to trade having a true sense of joy or sadness for being on an even keel at all times. In fact I would say I often desire that even now.

      June 24, 2014

    • Beth R.

      I can identify with the apathy. I feel that way most of the time. What's even more trippy is that I can consciously recall the idea of feeling intense joy and sadness, but today I rarely feel spontaneously. And yes, I'm sort of grateful for the even keel factor many days! I've had more than my share of intensity in my life.

      June 24, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    yes I guess both situations have their ups and downs(pun intended),good and bad side, I'm allowed if you will to blame my situation on a physical injury, but I'm trying not to rely on that excuse anymore now that I am almost fully recovered, I've allowed that excuse to become a crutch, a safety net. Thanks for you reply, should be a good conversation on Sunday.

    June 24, 2014

  • Beth R.

    I had a stroke two years ago and I learned to talk and move again over time. But the most striking aspect of the brain injury is the changes my personality and subtle attitudes that I myself notice. The relationship between my mind and my physical brain is intriguing and mysterious.

    June 21, 2014

    • A former member
      A former member

      Your story is inspiring.

      June 24, 2014

  • Helen R.

    My husband had a stroke recently and I am learning to accept the subtle changes in personality.

    June 21, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    I had a TBI with an intracranial hemorrhage eleven months ago, so I understand what it's like when your brain doesn't work and when it does work. I 'THINK' I can bring my personal insight on the mind functioning even though the physical brain is not up to par. Looking forward to a great discussion.

    June 20, 2014

  • Lynn

    It has been said that, traditionally at least, neuroscience has been data-rich and theory-poor. In other words, there are many data on the nitty-gritty of the anatomy and physiology of the brain, but not enough of the "aerial view" needed to make sense of it all. Various efforts have emerged to try to fix this. Computational neuroscience and neuroeconomics aim to impose theoretical structure on what we know about the brain. I would also count embodied cognition towards efforts to put what is known about the brain into context.

    June 16, 2014

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