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Posted Mar 24 2010 12:00am
Welcome to my new blog, Neuro Küz. Neuro because all the ideas I will discuss will at least somehow be related to neuroscience. Küz because that is the name of yours truly, the author of this blog. At least that’s what we’ll call me. I named this blog after myself not because I am a narcissist but because all the other cool suffixes for “neuro” were taken.

To me, neuroscience is one of the most interesting ways to ask life’s most interesting questions. A mentor of mine, who teaches an undergraduate course on neuroscience, always introduces his course by posing a question that was central to the sweeping success of the film The Matrix: what if the reality we perceive and believe is really some simulated reality? In other words, what if those “row, row, row your boat” lyricists are on to something, and life is but a dream? Or what if you’re merely an unwitting character in someone else’s dream?

There are obviously more “what ifs” that could be asked, but the point is that our brain has a known tendency to trick us at both sensory and cognitive levels. Magicians are easily able to deceive us with illusions, and we have all faced instances in which we were absolutely convinced that we were right until proven wrong. Furthermore, our brain only allows us to sense and perceive selective details in our environment while leaving others out. For example, bees are able to see ultraviolet light waves that we are unaware of until they give us cancer.

Perhaps what I have discussed so far can be categorized under the wing of “neurophilosophy,” a branch that commonly captures the initial intrigue of many neuro-enthusiasts. But there is now a growing interest in neuroscience at worldly, applicable and practical levels. Researchers and healthcare practitioners are no longer the only ones interested in neuroscience. Artists are increasingly incorporating neuroscientific ideas into novels, movies, and other creations. And if you have been keeping up, you may have heard of such terms as: neuromarketing, neurolaw, neurotechnology, neuroeconomics, neuroeducation, neurosociety, neuroquantology, or the neurorevolution.

In a world full of huge incentives to develop new products and validate claims about the quality of products, how much of what we’re being told is accurate? Neuroscience can be help us advance and progress, but it can also be highly misused and harmful. Undoubtedly, the study of neuroscience has led to improvements in approaches to stroke rehabilitation and neurosurgical techniques, and of course the ingenious invention of sharks with laser beams attached to their heads. However, to what extent has the attribution of psychiatric disorders to chemical imbalances in the brain led to the pronounced overprescription of antidepressants? How often do writers improperly use neuroscience to back up and sell their ideas, and can we trust advertisers who claim that their products will make you smarter and sharper?

I hope to comment on some of these ideas, current events, and innovations in neuroscience here. The reach of neuroscience is extending quickly. In the near future, we will likely see more and more impact of neuroscience on the practices of healthcare and law, our understanding of art, business, culture as well as social issues, and even the development of public policy. It is important to carefully ask questions in these times. I invite you to neuroquestion, neurocomment and neurocriticize.
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