Neuro_________

February 4th, 2011 in Pop Culture 2 comments

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Neuroscience has transformed itself into a highly interdisciplinary science rooted in biology that integrates psychology, chemistry, physics, computer science, philosophy, math, engineering, and just about every other type of science that we know of. Botany? Synthesis of new drugs. Oceanography? Animal models. I’m sure there must be some science that neuroscience hasn’t touched, but I can’t think of one.

Since its inception, neuroscience has gotten its grubby little fingers all over the science community. Now, it’s not clear whether the recent flood into even more fields is the result of ambitious forward thinkers or crafty businessmen, but either way, “neuro” as a prefix is popping up everywhere. While some of these up-and-coming fields show promise or, at least, raise interesting questions, others are less convincing…

Neuromarketing: Studies consumers’ sensorimotor, cognitive, and affective response to marketing stimuli
How: fMRI, EEG, eye tracking and GSR (Galvanic Skin Response)
Why: Provides information on what a consumer reacts to. (For example, is it the color, sound, or feel or a product that drew you to it?)
Does it hold water? The neuromarketing firms say so, but there’s minimal peer-reviewed published data to support their claims

Money on the brain

Neuroeconomics: Studies decision making under risk and uncertainty, inter-temporal choices (decision that have costs and benefits over time), and social decision making
How: fMRI, PET, EEG, MEG, recordings of ERP and neurotransmitter concentrations, in addition to behavioral data over various design parameters
Why: Some facets of economic behaviors are not completely explained by mainstream economics (expected utility, rational agents) or behavioral economics (heuristics, framing)
Does it hold water? The field has emerged as a respectable one, with centers for neuroeconomic study at many highly regarded universities

Neurolaw: Integrates neuroscientific data with the proceedings of the legal system
How: MRI, fMRI, PET
Why: Supporters believe reliable neuroscientific data can elucidate the truth behind human actions
Does it hold water? TBD. Lie detectors and predictive measures are not yet refined enough to make any real claims. However, the insanity defense (in which a defendant can claim that a neurological illness robbed him or her of the capacity to control his or her behavior) can clear defendants of criminal liability. In addition, the ethics of sentencing and lawmaking with neuroscientific data falls in a grey area.

Neuropolitics: Studies the neurological effects of political messages as well as the characteristics of political people
How: fMRI, GSR
Why: To asses the physical effect of political messages . Also, are liberals and conservatives mechanically different?
Does it hold water? Probably not, but everyone likes a little neuro-babble.

I’m sure this is only the beginning of the neuro______ revolution.

Brain Scans as Mind Readers? Don’t Believe the Hype. – Wired.com

The Brain on the Stand – NYTimes.com

Why is every neuropundit such a raging liberal? – Slate.com

Neuroeconomics – Wikipedia

Neuromarketing – Wikipedia