The blossoms are beautiful on their own

Listen. I totally respect your new neuroscience discovery. Really, my balls are jazzed. But quit with the ‘may lead to a cure for epilepsy, autism and schizophrenia’ thing you always put in your press releases.

Your new neuroscience discovery is genuinely cool, but, let’s face it, no more likely to lead to a cure for schizophrenia than my new garden equipment is likely to end world hunger.

My new garden equipment, by the way, is an equally ball-tingling innovation, but you can see how you’d never get away with the world hunger thing when announcing it to the press.

A lot of neuroscience discoveries are similar in a way. They’re the scientific equivalent of inventing a solar powered bird-scarer.

You read that right. A solar-powered bird scarer.

Kinda clicks into place, doesn’t it? You think to yourself ‘that’s cool’ and you silently nod your head to whoever came up with that agricultural gem.

But the UN aren’t busting their onions to integrate it into their agricultural policy. Monsanto aren’t scratching their nuts over how to cash in.

This doesn’t make it less cool. It still makes a genuine contribution and may even make things easier for the bird-troubled farmer. But it’s unlikely to herald the end of famine.

So, neuroscience press release writers of the world – no need to promise me the world.

The blossoms are really quite beautiful on their own.

12 Comments

  1. Posted February 22, 2013 at 10:49 pm | Permalink

    Hear, hear! It’s endemic to scientific grant writing, too.

    • KatDaley
      Posted February 25, 2013 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

      Hyperbole gets FUNDED. For any bad habit, you just have to follow the money. Too much research money is controlled by people who don’t know neuro from euro. You’ve got to sound important to get them to notice you. Since everybody else is making their project seem SO important, you’ll get lost in the shuffle if you don’t.

  2. Posted February 22, 2013 at 11:29 pm | Permalink

    The blossoms are NOT beautiful on their own. What is neuroscientifically known is that their beauty clearly comes via association of their visual appeal with their olfactory appeal, which is what establishes the chemical appeal of flowers, foods, and other people. The problem with attempts to explain what is neuroscientifically known is that people continue to think that “the blossoms are really quite beautiful on their own.” No molecular mechanisms allow for visual beauty to be established except via olfactory/pheromonal associations with the epigenetic effects of nutrients and pheromones on adaptive evolution via ecological, social, neurogenic, and socio-cognitive niche construction. In a world where all you need do is to stop and smell the roses once in a while, there is no need for neuroscience, and it’s decidedly not as romantic as ‘naming a rose’ whatever you call it. But did you see the patent for pheromone-induced neural stem cell proliferation as a treatment for Alzheimer’s? Are you vaguely aware that olfactory deficits are somewhat diagnostic in Alzheimer’s. I thought not. You seem to think that what’s known is being reported in the press releases (e.g., for dummies).

    • Posted February 23, 2013 at 12:13 am | Permalink

      I have no olfactory deficits, yet I am unable to smell the lovely blossoms used to illustrate this article. I like the picture of the blossoms, regarless of the scent. And some actual flowers I like the appearance of, and find the scent nausiating. Just saying.

      • Posted February 23, 2013 at 11:48 am | Permalink

        Classically conditioned hormone-organized and hormone-activated behaviors associated with visual and other sensory input begin with the epigenetic effects of the maternal diet while we’re still in the womb. At birth, the sex differences in the response to maternal odors begins to establish heterosexual preferences — like male preferences for the visual appeal of large breasts — since every breast is large to an infant male. The fact that people look at perception of odors in the context of their response to pictures discounts unconscious affects of olfactory/pheromonal input during years of experience dependent responses.

      • Posted February 23, 2013 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

        Epigentetics are fascinating. Sins of the Father, and all that. — Everything is big to baby girls, as well. —- Have you noticed that as boys approach puberty and their own boy scent changes with hormones, family memebers begin to find the BO offensive, yet geneticaly disimilar girls find the same boys, with this offensive to family BO, highly attractive? I’ve tired to explain this phenomena to other parents (my husband, siblings, others) as Mother Nature keeping genetic variety intact and avoiding inbreeding as a means to ward off testosterone clashes disguised as hygein enforcement and discplin.— With your wonderful way with words, can you help me? Those boys of mine, (and yes, I do remember them nuzzeling into me, smelling and breathing to be immeresed in Mama for comfort. The Grandies do it to Granny now, too) are long grown, but this still will always happen.—- Have you ever head of poltegeist phenomena being related to female puberty and female menopause household hormonal conflict? Similar in origin to the anti-pheremonal male hormone conflicts at puberty.—-I suppose this is the wrong venue for a drawn out discussion though. Do you have a blog? I should like to read your postings.—–Granny Bear

      • Posted February 23, 2013 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

        Thanks for commenting and asking about the blog, which is at Pheromones.com

        I’ve co-authored or authored a book, two award-winning articles, and a 1996 review article in Hormones and Behavior that may have been the first to link molecular epigenetics to human hormone-organized and activated behaviors associated with the direct effects of pheromones on a detailed pathway from genes to behavior and back. Unfortunately, as evidenced by that last sentence, I try to convey too much in too little time, which is why I’ve blogged 400+ times in the past three years. Very technical stuff, but there are also links to presentations — including some YouTube excerpts from one at American Mensa that made more sense to more people I had fun with while presenting. There’s a degree of validation just by the fact that you are presenting, which helps to avoid controversy and comments from those who think they know more about the topic than I do.

  3. Posted February 23, 2013 at 12:19 am | Permalink

    I suspect the promises of “cures” for neuro-differences are a disguised call for test subjects. Now and again, anyways.—-Beauty and knowledge do have stand alone value. Sometimes they guide us in directions not concieved of before awareness of new beauties and knowing came into being—Granny Bear

  4. Andy
    Posted February 23, 2013 at 12:27 am | Permalink

    Disagree with the assertion that it is the neuroscience press release writers at fault; instead, the data suggest that it is the scientists themselves spinning their research that leads to this: http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001308, summarized http://andymckenzie.blogspot.com/2012/09/the-embryology-of-spin.html

  5. Posted February 23, 2013 at 1:08 am | Permalink

    Bravo.
    Hyperbole blows.
    It’s rampant in research. “This could be the biggest best fastest most awesome finding that might possibly nearly become the answer to most issues facing some people in frontiers of the world where disasters of his magnitude are infinitissimily likely to occur virtually solving them” is how I start my project write-ups ensuring attention and publication.

  6. Posted February 26, 2013 at 12:57 am | Permalink

    Reminds me of something similar I was discussing over on WordPress. The idea that, in order to pander to funding agencies and journal editors for that matter, overselling the cure-all of research studies has become an unfortunate trend. Some of it is painting discoveries in a “This is the holy grail” light in order to get published and funded. But part of it is also just simplistic thinking. Bad hypotheses, shoddy theories. But there’s been holy grail seekers for eons. It’s just that now, there’s a huge number of scientists and we have published research and media representations at our Internet fingertips 24/7.

  7. Posted March 18, 2013 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

    Is there something we should know about your balls? From your post, they seem to be on your mind quite a bit. ;)


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