The Naked Brain : How the Emerging Neurosociety is Changing How We Live, Work, and Love
Consider a world in which
- Marketers use brain scans to determine consumer interest in a product
- Politicians use brain-image-based profiles to target voters
- A test could determine your suitability for a job or to whom you will be romantically attracted
Far from science fiction, this "neurosociety"--a society in which brain science influences every aspect of daily life--is already here.
Innovative researchers and cutting-edge technology, like brain imaging and brain scanning devices, have revolutionized our understanding of how we process information, communicate, trust, sympathize, and love. However, scientists and doctors are not the only ones interested in the naked brain; advertisers, politicians, economists, and others are using the latest findings on the human brain to reshape our lives, from the bedroom to the boardroom.
Despite the potential benefits, there's obvious peril in the promise. Richard Restak explores the troubling moral and legal dilemmas that arise from corporate and political applications of this new brain research. Someday we may live in a world where our choices, our professional and personal prospects, even our morals and ethics will be controlled by those armed with an elite understanding of the principles of neuroscience.
Eye-opening and provocative, The Naked Brain is a startling look at the impact such unprecedented access to our most secret thoughts and tendencies will have on all of us.
In The Naked Brain, bestselling author Richard Restak explores how the latest technology and research have exposed the brain and how we think, feel, remember, and socialize in unprecedented and often surprising ways. Now that knowledge is being used by doctors, advertisers, politicians, and others to influence and revolutionize nearly every aspect of our daily lives.
Restak is our guide to this neurosociety, a brave new world in which brain science influences our present and will even more tangibly shape our future. Citing social trends, shifts in popular culture, the rise and fall of products in the public favor, even changes in the American vernacular, The Naked Brain is an illuminating and often troubling investigation of the impending opportunities and dangers being created by the neuroscience revolution, and a revelation for anyone who ever wondered why they prefer Coke over Pepsi or Kerry over Bush.
No brain is an island--so argues neurologist and writer Restak (The New Brain) in his latest book, which aims to synthesize emerging research on what he calls "social neuroscience," which examines the relationship between the social lives of human beings and the physical structure of our brains. Much of this research indicates that we're hard-wired to relate to other people, from the new mother who instinctively recognizes the cry of her infant to the twinge of empathy we feel when we see a lost stranger. Restak proposes that we can use this knowledge to understand our own behavior (a jilted lover, for example, feels an attachment and craving for his departed ex because the memory of her quite literally causes brain activity in the regions that control both pleasure and addiction) and potentially even control it (Buddhist monks seem to be able to rewire and enhance their brain activity through meditation). In the end, it's a bit unclear whether Restak wants to be a dispassionate observer of the scientific landscape or a more activist polemicist--the book closes with the claim that "by learning as much as we can about [social neuroscience], we will be in a position to resist manipulation by ads, pop culture, political spin, movies and television... social neuroscience can provide us a path towards... personal and collective liberation." Either way, this book offers a fascinating glimpse into how our brains are built. (Sept. 26)
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October 21, 2007
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Excerpt from The Naked Brain by Richard Restak
1 The Emergence of the Neurosociety Brain Imaging: Peering into Bertino’s Brain As a first step in appreciating the impact of social neuroscience, it helps to understand the power of imaging techniques to provide a window into events happening within the brain. The earliest techniques capable of revealing the brain’s inner processing carried a definite risk of injury and sometimes even death. Consequently, they were restricted to patients suffering from various brain diseases. As a result of this emphasis on disease, we presently know more about the functioning of abnormal brains than we know about normal ones. As a neurologist, I’m especially aware of this paradox. Ask me about the brain dysfunctions associated with strokes or autism or even some forms of learning disability and I can explain the difficulties in more detail than you probably want to hear. But ask me how the brain of a genius differs from that of his or her less intellectually gifted counterparts and the explanation isn’t going to take long at all. Not that we can’t learn a lot about the normal brain on the basis of studying abnormal brains. Even a study of the diseased brain often provides some helpful insights toward furthering our understanding of the normal brain. My favorite example of this comes from the observations of the late-nineteenth-century Italian experimenter Angelo Mosso. In the course of his research Mosso encountered a peasant, Bertino (no last name is recorded), who several years earlier had suffered a head injury severe enough to destroy the bones of the skull covering his frontal lobes (located immediately behind the forehead). The resulting opening, covered only by skin and fibrous tissue, provided Mosso with a window through which he could directly observe the pulsations of Bertino’s brain. Similar pulsations can be observed in a newborn baby during the first few weeks of life prior to the growth and fusion of the skull bones. When the baby cries or strains, the pulsations increase; when the baby sleeps, the pulsations subside. One day when Mosso was observing the pulsations he noticed a distinct increase in their magnitude coincident with the ringing at noon of the local church bells. At this point Mosso, in an act of inspiration, asked the peasant if the ringing of the Angelus reminded him of his obligation to silently recite the Ave Maria. When Bertino responded yes, the pulsations increased again. Intrigued at this sequence, Mosso asked his subject to multiply eight by ten. At the moment Mosso asked the question, the pulsations increased and then quickly decreased. A second increase occurred when Bertino responded with the answer. From this simple but elegant experiment Mosso correctly concluded that blood flow in the brain could provide an indirect measurement of brain function during mental activity. Inspired by Mosso’s findings with Bertino, students of the brain during the early and middle parts of the twentieth century developed more accurate techniques for measuring blood flow and metabolism in the human brain. For instance, dyes and radioactive substances injected into the arteries leading to the brain help pinpoint the relevant structures responsible for vision, movement, and sensation. But one important limitation lessened the usefulness of these probes into the brain’s functioning: All of them were intrusive, dangerous, and on occasion fatal. While undergoing one of the tests the subject could suffer a stroke, blindness, even death. Fortunately, that problem is now a thing of the past thanks to the safety of newer techniques, which carry little risk. Current imaging techniques are often described using a kind of alphabet soup terminology: “The patent’s CAT was normal but a contrast-enhanced MRI showed a small SOL in the frontal lobes later confirmed by PET.