The State of the Smarts?

All of a sudden there is a great interest in the press about the mind.
Amanda Ripley of Time Magazine rests on images to describe Harvard University President Larry Summers’ speech in, “Who Says A Woman Can’t Be Einstein?” [1].

Marianne Szegedy-Maszak writing in U.S. News & World Report’s article, “Mysteries of the mind” [2] examines the overwhelming control of the ‘unconscious’ through excerpts of the learned seeking the ‘code’.

Malcolm Gladwell spends an entire book [3] (Blink : The Power of Thinking Without Thinking) pondering over the long-term process of reactive thought and never once catches the point; while Jennifer Warner, writing in WebMD and published by Fox News [20] reports on the ‘new’ “Brain Region May Act as ‘Sixth’ Sense” explanation for the same thing.

Rob Thomas, writing in The Capital Times [4] expounds on Gladwell’s book in “Beyond the speed of thought” as if it mattered.

Washington University in St. Louis conjures up a nice way to ‘think’ about how brains work; designs software to make that ‘guess’ happen and proceeds to test it to prove it. Self fulfilled prophecy.[5] In another ‘take’ [11] ‘scientists’ have found the ‘ohmygodthatcouldhappen’ region of the brain as written in Science Daily. [11]. The Hartford Courant in “`Oops Center’ In Brain Warns Of Possible Risk” joyfully grabbed the oops in [15].

Rowan Hooper, writing in Wired [6] is captivated by a new term in “Rainbow Coalition of the Brain “.

WebMD [7] (and many others) report on “Implanted Brain ‘Pacemaker’ Treats Depression” and a myriad of derived headlines to blast the news that intrusive jump start treatment helped depressed patients. Six people were tested. Two returned to depression. The other four returned to depression symptoms after six months. Jump starting starts things. It does not fix things. This form of treatment could be considered cruel as knowing you have been ‘cured’ and knowing you won’t be when you stop treatment sounds like legal action in the making.

A vast array of press sources grabbed hold of ‘Linking Brain to Mind in a Common Chromosomal Disease’ [8] concentrating on the chromosome while the authors were calling for “Understanding the links between brain structure and brain function may offer clues to improving methods to help children with specific learning disabilities.” [8]

Amanda Onion writing in ABCNews’s [9] “Chronic Pain Comes From the Brain” has no idea how redundant that statement is. She has no idea what pain is, let alone how it could damage the brain. But it can.

Nancy Shute, writing in U.S. News & World Report’s “His brain, her brain” [10] knows its the size that matters, not how its used.

In a real scary concept, “Do antidepressants work by making new brain cells?” [12] reviewing the book “Listening to Prozac” by Peter D. Kramer, it is admitted that it is not known how antidepressants work other than they do something to synapses that seems to make people feel better as long as they don’t mind the side effects. By increasing output of synapses the next neuron’s output is increased. At the end of that line the signal is higher so the glias get the nod and more neurons turn up. Stop the treatment and there is no need for them.

The mythical ‘reward system’ in the ‘brain’ is blamed once again for addicts not taking control in “Addicts have faulty brakes in brain” published by [13]. The brain does have brakes of a sort but it has nothing to do with what causes addiction.

UCLA gets all excited about “Specialized Brain Cells Predict Intentions as Well as Define Actions” in [14] when they still have not realized the system of the brain is a system and not just parts.

Wisconsin Technology Network falls 12 ways to wrong with “Prairie Technologies works with UW engineer to visualize the brain” [16]. Let’s build it and see if it looks like it and if it does let’s declare it is. Self fulfilling prophecy.

Mary Kenny, writing in The Times OnLine (UK) [17] got fascinated with the topic: “Too much sex on the brain” and let Jay Giedd at the American National Institute of Mental Health run off at the misinterpretation trough: believing that brains must not be ‘developed’ until they cranial cavity is full.

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory misinterprets memory function in “‘Where Are My Glasses?’ — Study Reveals Clues To The Mechanism Of Short-term Memory” without a clue as to what forms memory has or what they do or how they work or how they interact. [18]

Michelle Roberts , writing for the BBC in “Size ‘does not matter’ for brains” [19] quotes William Calvin, ‘From the time when Homo sapiens were walking around in Africa 200,000 years ago with a brain size of ours, little happened in terms of intellectual revelations until 150,000 years later, according to Professor Calvin.’ That would place 50,000 years ago as a realistic time for something different. “Something else was driving the size gain”, says Calvin.

Robert Preidt , writing for Forbes, [21] in “Scientists Find Clue to Brain Development”, says, “Abundant but poorly understood brain cells called glia turn out to be essential in the development of synapses”, Duh.

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory chimes in again with, “How The Brain Creates False Memories” [22] and does not explain a thing.

Canada’s CTV pulls the rug out from under the Harvard apologists with [23] “Study indicates male brain four per cent faster”. Problem is, a study of ‘speed’ without comparison to other ‘speeds’ assumes there is one ‘speed’. Such a waste.

NewKerala reports “Left handers view world differently from right-handers:” [24] from “studies conducted by researchers from the University of Birmingham, published in the Nature Neuroscience”. But both the article and the studies miss why.

The reports listed above are those from February 2005 alone. Each of the topics covered by the press are already covered in the book ‘The Brain Is A Wonderful Thing’ and its companion, ‘Modern Mysticism’. Perhaps a read of both is in order for those who are so fascinated with the ‘mind’?

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