Sunday, September 16, 2012


A while back I linked to a review of Jonathan Lehrer's book Imagine because it nicely laid out some of the limits to what brain imaging can tell us. (Since then, it's come out that Lehrer's writing has more problems than simple exaggeration.)

This post over at Reason points to an even tougher critique of pop neuroscience.

The human brain, it is said, is the most complex object in the known universe. That a part of it “lights up” on an fMRI scan does not mean the rest is inactive; nor is it obvious what any such lighting-up indicates; nor is it straightforward to infer general lessons about life from experiments conducted under highly artificial conditions. Nor do we have the faintest clue about the biggest mystery of all – how does a lump of wet grey matter produce the conscious experience you are having right now, reading this paragraph? How come the brain gives rise to the mind? No one knows......
My sense of it is that while brain imaging doesn't tell us nothing, it doesn't tell us as much (so far) as some people think. What's exciting to me is that music is often used as a tool to explore brain imaging. That in itself is a step up from 30 years ago when any discussion about how music affects us was mostly intuitive and anecdotal, rather than empirical. 

No comments:

Post a Comment