Great Myths Of The Brain

Great Myths Of The Brain (pdf) by Christian Jarrett

“As humans, we can identify galaxies light years away, we can study particles smaller than an atom. But we still haven’t unlocked the mystery of the three pounds of matter that sits between our ears.”

That was US President Barack Obama speaking in April 2013 at the launch of the multimillion dollar BRAIN Initiative. It stands for “Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies” and the idea is to develop new ways to visualize the brain in action. The same year the EU announced its own €1 billion Human Brain Project to create a computer model of the brain.

This focus on neuroscience isn’t new – back in 1990, US President George W. Bush designated the 1990s the “Decade of the Brain” with a series of public awareness publications and events. Since then interest and investment in neuroscience has only grown more intense; some have even spoken of the twenty-first century as the “Century of the Brain.”

Despite our passion for all things neuro, Obama’s assessment of our current knowledge was accurate. We’ve made great strides in our understanding of the brain, yet huge mysteries remain. They say a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing and it is in the context of this excitement and ignorance that brain myths have thrived. By brain myths I mean stories and misconceptions about the brain and brain-related illness, some so entrenched in everyday talk that large sections of the population see them as taken-for-granted facts.

With so many misconceptions swirling around, it’s increasingly difficult to tell proper neuroscience from brain mythology or what one science blogger calls neurobollocks , otherwise known as neurohvpe, neurobunk, neurotrash, or neurononsense. Daily newspaper headlines tell us the “brain spot” for this or that emotion has been identified . Salesmen are capitalizing on the fashion for brain science by placing the neuro prefix in front of any activity you can think of, from neuroleadership to neuromarketing. Fringe therapists and self-help gurus borrow freely from neuroscience jargon, spreading a confusing mix of brain myths and self-improvement propaganda.

In 2014, a journalist and over-enthusiastic neuroscientist even attempted to explain the Iranian nuclear negotiations (occurring at that time) in terms of basic brain science.1 Writing in The Atlantic, the authors actually made some excellent points, especially in terms of historical events and people’s perceptions of fairness. But they undermined their own credibility by labeling these psychological and historical insights as neuroscience, or by gratuitously referencing the brain. It’s as if the authors drank brain soup before writing their article, and just as they were making an interesting historical or political point, they hiccupped out another nonsense neu-ro reference.

This book takes you on a tour of the most popular, enduring and dangerous of brain myths and misconceptions, from the widely accepted notion that we use just 10 percent of our brains, to more specific and harmful misunderstandings about brain illnesses, such as the mistaken idea that you should place an object in the mouth of a person having an epileptic fit to stop them from swallowing their tongue . I’ll show you examples of writers, filmmakers, and charlatans spreading brain myths in newspaper headlines and the latest movies. I’ll investigate the myths’ origins and do my best to use the latest scientific consensus to explain the truth about how the brain really works.


Praise for Great Myths of the Brain
Great Myths of Psychology

The Urgent Need for Neuro Myth-Busting
About This Book
The Need for Humility
A Primer on Basic Brain Anatomy, Techniques, and Terminology

l Defunct Myths

  • Myth #l Thought Resides in the Heart
  • Myth #2 The Brain Pumps Animal Spirits Round the Body
  • Myth #3 Brain Cells Join Together Forming a Huge Nerve Net
  • Myth #4 Mental Function Resides in the Brain’s Hollows

2 Myth-Based Brain Practices

  • Myth #5 Drilling a Hole in the Skull Releases Evil Spirits
  • Myth #6 Personality Can Be Read in the Bumps on the Skull
  • Myth #7 Mental Illness Can Be Cured by Disconnecting the Frontal Lobes

3 Mythical Case Studies

  •  Myth #8 Brain Injury Turned Neuroscience’s Most Famous Case into an Impulsive Brute
  • Myth #9 The Faculty of Language Production Is Distributed Through the Brain
  • Myth #10 Memory Is Distributed Throughout the Entire Cortex

4 The Immortal Myths

  •  Myth #11 We onlyT use ten percent of Our Brains
  • Myth #12 Right-Brained People Are More Creative
  • Myth #13 The Female Brain Is More Balanced (and Other Gender-Based Brain Myths)
  • Myth #14 Adults Can’t Grow New Brain Cells
  • Myth #15 There’s a God Spot in the Brain (and Other Lesser-Spotted Myths)
  • Myth #16 Pregnant Women Lose Their Minds
  • Myth #17 We All Need Eight Hours of Continuous Sleep (and Other DozyT Sleep Myths)
  • Myth #18 The Brain Is a Computer
  • Myth #19 The Mind Can Exist Outside of the Brain
  • Myth #20 Neuroscience Is Transforming Human Self-Understanding

5 Myths about the Physical Structure of the Brain

  •  Myth #21 The Brain Is Well Designed
  • Myth #22 The Bigger the Brain, the Better
  • Myth #23 You Have a Grandmother Cell
  • Myth #24 Glial Cells Are Little More Than Brain Glue
  • Myth #25 Mirror Neurons Make Us Human (and Broken Mirror Neurons Cause Autism)
  • Myth #26 The Disembodied Brain

6 Technology  and Food Myths

  •  Myth #27 Brain Scans Can Read Your Mind
  • Myth #28 Neurofeedback Will Bring You Bliss and Enlightenment
  • Myth #29 Brain Training Will Make You Smart
  • Myth #30 Brain Food Will Make You Even Smarter
  • Myth #31 Google Will Make You Stupid, Mad, or Both

7 Brain Myths Concerning Perception and Action

  •  Myth #32 The Brain Receives Information from Five Separate Senses
  •  Myth #33 The Brain Perceives the World As It Is
  •  Myth #34 The Brain’s Representation of the Body Is Accurate and Stable

8 Myths about Brain Disorder and Illness

  •  Myth #35 Brain Injury7 and Concussion Myths
  •  Myth #36 Amnesia Myths
  •  Myth #37 Coma Myths
  • Myth #38 Epilepsy7 Myths
  • Myth #39 Autism Myths
  •  Myth #40 Dementia Myths
  •  Myth #41 The Chemical Imbalance Myth of Mental Illness

Supplemental Images
End User License Agreement

Language: English
Format: epub
Pages: 431
Size: 4.3 Mb
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