Neurocriticism Round Up

Greg and I have featured plenty of neurocriticism recently. Neurotosh, Neurodosh, and Neuordash, Psychiatry Affects Human Psychology, and Pop Goes the Media are three recent pieces. But I have also been gathering critical pieces from other places, so here they are.

The place to start is with two entries discussing the Critical Neurosciences conference I recently attended, both written by attendees.

Stephan Schleim at Brainlogs, A Critique of Neuroscience
Stephan provides us the overview: the introduction by the organizers, Cornelius Borck’s history of neuroscience’s ever-receding explanatory horizon, Laurence Kirmayer on neuroimaging and the DSM, and Ian Gold on what counts as good reductionism.

Eugene Raikhel at Somatosphere, Critical Neuroscience and Anthropological Engagement
Eugene gives us his general take: critical approaches to the culture of neuroscience and to how culture gets “encoded in the brain”. Then he considers why this critical neuroscience movement is happening in this historical now.

And now for your typical round-up from me. I’ve focused more on the neuroscience side, less on the social science side.

On Industry

Furious Seasons, The Zyprexa Chronicles: Zyprexa Judge Slams FDA, Eli Lilly
“the FDA has arguably failed consumers and physicians by over relying on pharmaceutical companies to provide supporting research for new drug applications; by allowing them, through lax enforcement, to conduct off-label marketing; by acquiescing… [and on and on]”

The Neurocritic, Coming to a Marketer Near You: Brain Scamming
Neuromarketer’s dreams and the neuroscience fallout

Natasha Mitchell, Studying the Species—Beyond the Neurobabble
Tempering the hype to find the good stuff

David Duncan, The Ultimate Cure
CondeNast takes on the neurotech industry for mixed results (it’s CondeNast, after all…)

Ape, Neuromarketing + Ads = Duh, Again
Neuromarketing BS rather than actual confidence and creativity

Mirror Neurons Hype

Social Mode, Mirror Neurons: A Fictionalized Interview
A funny take on Marco Iacoboni and the hype of mirror neurons

Neuroscientifically Challenged, Mirror Neurons May Be Responsible for Global Warming and US Economic Woes
The fanfare about mirror neurons is overblown—the challenge is to put it out

Jeffrey Goldberg, Re-thinking Jeffrey Goldberg
The Atlantic correspondent takes on neuro-marketing by getting his own brain fMRI-ed to find out what he really thinks… Rather funny.
BrainEthics has a follow-up, and Daniel Engber at Slate really goes to town on the neuro-hype. And Pure Pedantry really takes apart some of the not-so-tongue-in-cheek passages of the Goldberg piece.

Problems with Neuroimaging

Nikos Logothetis, What We Can and What We Cannot Do with fMRI
The Nature piece by a leader in the field of neuroimaging that started off a big debate, where he writes “fundamental questions concerning the interpretation of fMRI data abound, as the conclusions drawn often ignore the actual limitations of the methodology.” Sorry, it’s Nature, no free access.

Luckily Deric Bownds gives us some extensive excerpts from the Logothetis article.
Mind Hacks then places the Logothetis essay in the wider context with The fMRI Smackdown Cometh. The Neurocritic follows all this up with some specific smackdown about “neuroimagers gone wild.”

Brain Ethics, Big fMRI error in Science!!!
Visualization and assumptions—spatial localization done wrong. The Neurocritic follows up here.

Neurophilosophy, MRI: What Is It Good For?
A balanced look at what this type of imaging can and cannot actually do. Despite all the claims, it will never be a mind-reading machine.

Dave Munger, What’s More Convincing than Talking about Brains? Pictures of Brains!
Nice summary of research showing how bad science becomes more convincing (but still wrong) when accompanied by pretty brain images


Judith Warner, Of Mice and Women
A refreshingly different take on the social side of brain presentations aimed at convincing everyone of importance

Amanda Schaeffer and Emily Bazelon, The Sex Difference Evangelists
Slate’s six part critical series on the recent proclamations of men and women’s brains as fundamentally different. The link is to the first article in the series, Meet the Believers, which provides a handy link to all the essays right at the top.
If you’re looking for something even shorter, you can check out how Language Log summarized the gist of the critique of The Female Brain and the Sexual Paradox’ or head over to Mind Hacks as well.

Emily Bazelon and Amanda Schaeffer, Sex Differences: The Science
See the video interview: Taking down the claims of brain differences between the genders


Matthew Crawford, The Limits of Neuro-Talk
Basic problems to the new genre of neuro-everything (even neuro-anthropology)

Peggy Orenstein, Stress Test
“Stress is our burden, our bogyman, and reducing it is the latest all-purpose talisman against adversity’s randomness.”

The Economist, Do Economists Need Brains?
A critical take on the burgeoning of neuroeconomics. Mind Hacks gives us the quick overview.

Vaughan Bell at Mind Hacks, Misdirected Magic
Vaughan recognizes his own hype, via a user’s comment, in a remarkably refreshing way. He calls it the “theory of mind” illusion. An example for all of us.

Adam Keiper, The Age of Neuroelectronics
Brain implants—should they worry us? Probably not yet, Keiper writes in his wide-ranging and meditative review of our cyborg future

Daniel Engber, Neuropundits Gone Wild!
This is definitely not Your Brain on Politics. Neuro-politics sold as snake oil.
Wired offers more about the now infamous NY Times editorial, which was debunked in a letter by leading neuroscientists. Iacoboni responds to the critics here.

The Neurocritic, The Right and the Good and the Insula
Brain localization of morality? The Neurocritic doesn’t think so

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