Monday, July 09, 2012

Neuroscience needs to be more critical

Suparna Choudhury & Jan Slaby have published an edited collection entitled Critical neuroscience (see website). This is a response by a group, which began meeting in Berlin, to what they call the “neuromania in the natural and human sciences”. They describe the “shared sense of irritation about the hubris of neuroscience and the reverberations of ‘brain overclaim’ in areas of everyday life far beyond the lab”.

Such ‘brain
overclaim’ is apparent in an editorial by Mary Phillips from the latest edition of the British Journal of Psychiatry. Although she acknowledges that there are limitations to neuroimaging studies in psychiatry, she holds out the hope that they will differentiate individuals with unipolar v. bipolar depression; identify those at future risk of developing psychiatric illness; and find those who are most likely to respond to a specific drug. She even suggests neuroimaging might be more accurate than clinical assessment.

At least Phillips has committed herself to outcomes that we can look back on and see that she has not achieved. But I doubt this will curb her wish-fullfilling phantasies. And why does the British Journal of Psychiatry publish such speculation, implying it could be fact? We need to admit, like Choudhury & Slaby, that neuroscience is misguided inasmuch as it seems that its aim is to solve the mind-body problem, which it won't do.


Altostrata said...

"Neuromania" and "brain overclaim" -- fine and maybe necessary neologisms.

In the meantime, whilst pondering the theoretical, where can patients find doctors who are sensible enough to help them taper safely off psychiatric drugs they may never have needed?

cobweb said...

Coursera is running free course on ethics of neuroscience