Neuroscience and junk science

 By William Seidman This piece in the New York Times raises good points on the uses and misuses of neuroscience. Have you noticed how much junk science exists, and how many claims are made in the name of “brain chemistry”? Most of the junk science is due to over-generalizing the implications of legitimate MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) research. While there is a basis for these generalization – MRIs show that the brain responds to certain stimuli in predictable ways and will re-wire itself (called neuroplasticity) – the implications of other connections is a stretch. I take a very narrow view of the use of neuroscience. Research has shown that learning, at any age, is a rewiring of the connections between neurons. Practice and/or intense experience causes wiring to form or re-form. Research has shown that:

  • Positive images release different neurochemicals than negative images; if you want to change something it is better to focus on the positive images.
  • Writing things down uses different parts of the brain than speaking or just thinking. These different part of the brain provide a different emotional feeling (e.g. fear vs. control).
  • Different chemicals are released in group settings than when someone is alone, and these chemicals are related to different emotional and intellectual responses.
But the neuroscience itself says nothing about what is learned. That’s up to you!    ]]>

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