| The poetry of reality|
|We must know. |
We will know.
|A view from the|
shoulders of giants.
Neuroscience is the scientific study of the nervous system.
Throughout history, changes in behavior have been noted in people who receive injuries to the brain, but in recent decades technology has allowed for scientists to actually study why this is.
Learning how the brain develops and functions can lead to treatments and preventions of neurological disorders such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.
Such treatments may be possible through stem cell research, which is controversial when it utilizes embryos.
Even folksy generalizations about neuroscience are useful to the average person because: (1) the brain and nervous system are amazingly complex; (2) research is on-going; (3) findings by investigations have enormous consequences in terms of understanding ourselves, human culture, and the evolution of "reason" and "religion"; (4) we never learned this stuff in high school, and (5) the learning curve needs to start somewhere. But when the learning curve stops, the woo begins. Topics with enormous potential for enlightenment and mischief are the following:
- Human nature and its anthropological cousin, cultural universals
- Hemispheric dominance (left-brain, right brain)
- Reptile brain
- Brain waves and Brainwave woo
It's a relatively common to handwave pseudoscientific assertions about human nature as being backed by neuroscience: keep an eye out for direct references to actual scientific papers that use observational evidence, whose claims tend not to be quite so grandiose. To see examples, try searching the internet for the phrase "Neuroscience says that". You can find all sorts of generalizations that have no real basis, like:
- Becoming immune to stress
- The right side of the brain that specializes in creativity (See the hemispheric dominance for why this is wrong)
Usually these kinds of claims come from someone who's trying to sell you something.