Searching for capital ‘T’ Truth in ‘Brain Porn': Useful, not perfect

‘Brain Porn’ Not So Seductive After All?

Though the article title is a bit over the top (you surprise me sometimes NPR), here are 2 great articles on something that is always on the mind of neuroimagers (and should always be).

“Some members of the public may appreciate the inferential leaps behind a neuroimage, but the details get pretty complicated pretty quickly, and popular science coverage rarely even hints at this complexity.

Instead, it could be that neuroimages – and neuroscience in general – are a battleground for warring intuitions. On the one hand, there’s a tendency towards reductionism that leads people to find concrete, spatially meaningful renderings of brain activity irresistibly real and objective in a way that beliefs and emotions and the other contents of mental life are not. On the other hand, we resist the idea that mental life is nothing more than a series of spatiotemporally localized physical events.”

For a great basic explanation of what PET and fMRI can show us see this NPR article:
http://www.npr.org/blogs/13.7/2012/12/07/166733094/brain-scans-dont-catch-the-brain-in-action?sc=tw&cc=share

Finally, remember that even though these technologies and techniques have their limitations, they are still useful. To put it in a way I heard at a Society for Neuroscience talk last week, ‘…Brain images and models are never perfect and shouldn’t expect to be so at this stage of exploration…they are like maps of the world from the 1600s. Although the 1600s maps are not as detailed and fine grained as google maps are today those maps still provided useful information about the world at that time. They allowed for small steps along a continued search for the True ‘map’ of the world. We need to see neuroimaging through both the lens of past and future, but we should not forsake the entire brain imaging endeavor now because the information we’ll be able to get in the future will be more accurate and closer to the Truth.’ – Martijn van den Heuvel

Of course that analogy only flies if the neuroimaging work is being done scientifically, obeying all of the guidelines that any scientific endeavor is required to follow…

Post thoughts below for continued conversation…

One response to “Searching for capital ‘T’ Truth in ‘Brain Porn': Useful, not perfect

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