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Great Myths of the Brain by Christian Jarrett

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6Technology and Food Myths

A disproportionate amount of neuroscience press coverage is focused on revelations from brain scan studies, with frequent claims about how neuroimaging technology promises to transform everything from lie detection to marketing. Other myths have emerged about the potential harm of modern technology, especially the Internet, for our brains. Paradoxically, there are also tall tales about the potential for computer-based brain training and neurofeedback to bypass traditional forms of exercise and practice and tune our brains to perfection. This chapter takes an objective look at all this technology hype and fear mongering. It concludes by examining myths that have grown up around the notion of “brain foods” that supposedly boost our IQ or stave off dementia.

Myth #27 Brain Scans Can Read Your Mind

The mind used to be a black box, welded shut to the outside world. Clues came from introspection, brain-damaged patients, and ingenious psychology experiments that probed the mind's probable inner workings by testing the limits of perception and memory. But then in the 1990s, functional magnetic resonance brain imaging (fMRI) came along and the lid of the box was flung wide open (see Plate 8).

Another form of brain scanning known as PET (positron emission tomography) had been around since the late 1960s but it required injection of radioactive isotopes. With the advent of fMRI, which is noninvasive, psychologists could more easily recruit participants to perform mental ...

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