“Brain porn” is a term given to the simplistic (and reductionist) thinking that leads to attempts to use neuroscience (especially brain-scanning technologies) to explain the way the human brain works. This recent suite of articles discusses neuroscience, neuroscientists and the complexity involved in describing the human brain.
1. Let’s kick things off with a swift kick to the idea that neuroscience can explain nearly everything, including voting for the Republicans (Quart’s example in this first article) and even playing poker (as Blum mentions in article 5 below).
Neuroscience: under attack by Alissa Quart at The New York Times
2. This piece runs through some of the issues around drawing too many conclusions from brain imaging. I will paste a quotation from this article below because it is relevant to article number three in this selection:
“Scientists are also still struggling to construct theories about how arrays of individual neurons relate complex behaviors, even in principle. Neuroscience has yet find its Newton, let alone its Einstein.”
Neuroscience fiction by Gary Marcus at The New Yorker
3. This article picks up on the theme of a neuroscience equivalent for Newton.
Does Neuroscience need a Newton? by Scicurious at Scientific American blogs
4. If you want a great run-down of some neuroscience history along with the Newton-like nominees for neuroscience, read this piece.
Nominees for the Newton of neuroscience by Zen Faulkes at NeuroDojo
5. As you can tell from the title of this piece, we finish with a journalistic angle to the “brain porn” debate.
Winter of discontent: Is the hot affair between neuroscience and science journalism cooling down? by Deborah Blum at Knight Science Journalism at MIT