|By EKTA from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/25|
A few years later, PET was replaced with a more flexible technique of functional magnetic resonance (fMRI), allowing scientists to study people's brains without the risk of using radioactive tracers. Subsequent studies produced more standardized methods of analyzing brain activity, yielding more consistent results.
And, as a result neuroscience went public... 'everyone' was interpreting and these studies, publishing books on brain activity and how we think. As a result educators, neuro-scientists, physicians and others began to question the authenticity such publications. Alissa Quart in a blunt New York Times op-ed (November 23, 2012) spoke out applauding "neurodoubters" who like neuroscience but don't like "what her or she considers its bastardization by glib, sometimes ill-informed popularizers." According to Quart:
Such journalism, these critics contend, is... nothing more than "simplified pop."...As a journalist and cultural critic, I applaud the backlash against what is sometimes called brain pron, which raises important questions about this reductionist, sloppy thinking and our willingness to accept seemingly neuroscientific explanations for, well, nearly everything.
A team of British scientists recently analyzed nearly 3,000 neuroscientific articles published in the British press between 2000 and 2010 and found that the mediaThis "neuro-porn" is fueled, in part, by most of us who just want to 'understand' our minds: how we think, how we learn, why we do things the way we do them, and/or why some things seem easy to us and other things seem so challenging.
regularly distorts and embellishes the findings of scientific studies...The problem isn’t solely that self-appointed scientists often jump to faulty conclusions about neuroscience. It’s also that they are part of a larger cultural tendency, in which neuroscientific explanations eclipse historical, political, economic, literary and journalistic interpretations of experience.
Part of the problem with neuroscience, according to Gary Marcus in a New Yorker online article Neuroscience Fiction (December 2, 2012) is that,
"...a lot of those reports are based on a false premise: that neural tissue that lights up most in the brain is the only tissue involved in some cognitive function...Most of the interesting things that the brain does involve many different pieces of tissue working together...we may need new methods, like optogenetics or automated, robotically guided tools for studying individual neurons...The real problem with neuroscience today isn’t with the science—though plenty of methodological challenges still remain—it’s with the expectations. The brain is an incredibly complex ensemble, with billions of neurons coming into—and out of—play at any given moment.In an engaging post by Sharpbrains, Do You Believe these Neuromyths, 32 "brain-related" statements are posted based on a study by Sanne Dekker, Nikki Lee, Paul Howard-Jones and Jelle Jolle Neuromyths in education: Prevalence and predictors of misconceptions among teachers (Frontiers in Educational Psychology, 18, October 2012) along with how well educators distinguished myth from fact.
Here are a sample of Dekker et.al "brain-related" statements (along with a few others taken from other sources listed below in the "read more' section). How informed are you?
- We use our brains 24 h a day.
- Children must acquire their native language before a second language is learned. If they do not do so neither language will be fully acquired.
- It has been scientifically proven that fatty acid supplements (omega-3 and omega-6) have a positive effect on academic achievement.
- When a brain region is damaged other parts of the brain can take up its function.
- We only use 10% of our brain.
- The left and right hemisphere of the brain always work together.
- Differences in hemispheric dominance (left brain, right brain) can help explain individual differences amongst learners.
- The brains of boys and girls develop at the same rate.
- Brain development has finished by the time children reach secondary school.
- Information is stored in the brain in a network of cells distributed throughout the brain.
- Learning is not due to the addition of new cells to the brain.
- Individuals learn better when they receive information in their preferred learning style (e.g., auditory, visual, kinesthetic).
- Learning occurs through modification of the brains’ neural connections.
- Normal development of the human brain involves the birth and death of brain cells.
- Mental capacity is hereditary and cannot be changed by the environment or experience.
- Vigorous exercise can improve mental function.
- Environments that are rich in stimulus improve the brains of preschool children.
- Circadian rhythms (“body-clock”) shift during adolescence, causing pupils to be tired during the first lessons of the school day.
- Regular drinking of caffeinated drinks reduces alertness.
- Extended rehearsal of some mental processes can change the shape and structure of some parts of the brain.
- Individual learners show preferences for the mode in which they receive information (e.g., visual, auditory, kinesthetic).
- Learning problems associated with developmental differences in brain function cannot be remediated by education.
- Production of new connections in the brain can continue into old age.
- There are sensitive periods in childhood when it’s easier to learn things.
- Left-handed people are organized, right-brained people are creative.
Here are the answers to Myth (I- Incorrect) or Fact (C- Correct):
1 (C), 2 (I), 3 (I), 4 (C), 5 (I), 6 (C), 7(I), 8 (I), 9 (I), 10 (C), 11 (C), 12 (I), 13 (C), 14 (C), 15 (I), 16 (C), 17 (I), 18 (C), 19 (C), 20 (C), 21 (C), 22 (I), 23 (C), 24 (C), 25 (I),
In short, we all have be careful about what we read. This is more true now with access (via the Internet) to vasts amounts of information from so many unknown or unfamiliar sources. When reading about neuropsychology, look at the source and evaluate the research, the science, and experimental design behind the statements you're reading. And when in doubt, ask your physician.
For more on this please read:
- Do You Believe these Neuromyths?
- Neuromyths in education
- Debunking 10 Brain and Brain Fitness Myths
- Nine Stubborn Brain Myths that Just Won't Die, Debunked by Science
- The Child's Developing Brain New York Times, 9/15/2008
- Edutopia: Neuro Myths: Separating Fact and Fiction in Brain-Based Learning
Thank you for your time and visit.
Please share your 'brain-related statement' awareness, your reactions and impressions or your questions in the "Comments" below.