When did neuroscience get so trendy?
I have been attending a leadership course recently that claims it looks at the neuroscience of leadership. I think they mean psychology, but it seems neuroscience is the new buzz word.
I lost a section of the presentation this week when comments they made sent me off at a tangent.
We were presented with an MRI of a brain.
A section of the image was alight. This, we were told is the area of the brain which lights up if you are physically hurt. It is apparently the same area that lights up if you feel excluded. Therefore (and this is where is started to fall apart) if you exclude someone, the brain sees it the same as physical pain.
Pain and the brain is fascinating and I would encourage anyone interested in this to look at the work of Lorimer Moseley. His TED talk about the snake bite makes you rethink pain)
It was indisputable. Science said so.
My mind went to how on earth they had done that experiment. Had they put someone into an MRI and then physically hurt them to see what happened? How did that pass ethical approval? Even more intriguing, had they put someone into an MRI and then told them they were excluded from something. How did they know that what had caused the physical pain wasn’t a by product of some exclusion.
Even more challenging, in another seminar I was told that it was scientifically proven that if you placed your hand over your heart and told yourself you were loved, it caused your vagus nerve to fire. Does it not work if I put my hand over my elbow? I hope it’s not location dependant because the presenter was American and had their hand way too far to the left to be over their heart. Maybe it calms you down which may affect your nervous system but surely you can’t say its scientifically proven to cause nerves to fire.
Of course, what is and isn’t science is a massively grey area.
Doing a PhD between a medical school and humanities has unveiled a whole new aspect of this debate. The seminal work by Gieryn demonstrates that the boundaries between science and non science are mobile and people redefine them to suit their purposes.
The leadership company wants to present its theories as being valid. They are correct because their theories are backed up with science and this in some way is better than someone who has experience.
A year spent in the quagmire of disputed science has caused me to be a bit less trusting of what is being held up as scientifically proven and on the look out for when science is used to bolster up claims that may be a little dubious.