Combating neurohype

by Mo Costandi

Mo Costandi trained as a developmental neurobiologist and now works as a freelance writer based in London. His work has appeared in Nature, Science, and Scientific American, among other publications. He writes the Neurophilosophy blog, hosted by The Guardian, and is the author of 50 Human Brain Ideas You Really Need To Know, published by Quercus in 2013, and Neuroplasticity, forthcoming from MIT Press. Costandi also sits on the Board of Directors of the International Neuroethics Society.

In 2010, Judy Illes, president elect of the International Neuroethics Society, argued that neuroscientists need to communicate their research to the general public more effectively. Five years on, that message is still pertinent – and perhaps even more so.

Since then, public interest in neuroscience has continued to grow, but at the same time, coverage of brain research in the mass media is often inaccurate or sensationalist, and myths and misconceptions about the brain seem to be more prevalent than ever before, especially in areas such as business and education.
Why is this? And what can be done to remedy the situation? A handful of studies into how neuroscience is reported by the mass media and perceived by the public provide some answers – and reiterate the point made by Illes five years ago.
Several years ago, for example, researchers at University College London analysed nearly 3,000 articles about neuroscience research published in the three best-selling broadsheet and the three best-selling tabloid newspapers in the UK between 1st January 2000 and 31st December 2010.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.