Two New Ways Neuroscience Is Entering the Mainstream

Most people will be aware of neuroscience by now, either from school, by reading one of the many magazine and newspaper articles, or through their profession: neuroscientific studies are increasingly referred to in the mainstream, usually with an image of a lit-up brain.This is not surprising given the amount of studies now conducted and some high profile brain mapping projects going on around the globe. Increasingly science is using the advanced technology now available to gather more information about the brain and to interpret how it relates to our behaviour.Most people still connect neuroscience to medicine and psychology, but it is being used in many areas of life. Did you know, for instance, that it is used in organisations for enhancing leadership and team performance? Or that it has entered the realms of law and marketing?

Neuroscience and Law

With the legal profession’s necessary preoccupation with human behaviour, we really shouldn’t be too surprised to see neuroscience mentioned in the same breath as law. Some people are even predicting that neuroscience will completely overhaul the legal system.With mainstay practices such as lie detection given new tools – eg blood flow to the brain, using fMRI – it is already in its early stages. Advances in neuroscience claim to be able to identify what causes particular responses in people and what triggers certain behaviour, thereby giving new insight into the world of why people do the things they do.Recently Dennis Patterson from Rutgers Law in Camden, UK published Mind, Brains, and Law:The Conceptual Foundations of Law and Neuroscience.

The book recognises many of the pluses of incorporating more neuroscience into the legal system; but also points out that opposition exists from those who question the reliability of using such “evidence” as found in tests and studies. How far it goes is a profound question for legal policy makers to address, and the author notes that progress needs to be made with caution.It even has its own moniker. As is the custom with the intersection of neuroscience with anything, the neuro prefix is used to gives us “neurolaw”. You will hear much more about it in the future, providing the many practical, ethical, and conceptual issues are overcome.We’ve all seen those images of people wired up to brain scanning devices recording the responses to a series of pictures or videos. That was neuroscience as it used to be: generally the domain of men in white coats in labs, rather than marketers.Nowadays less intrusive brain imaging and scanning technology (predominantly fMRI and EEG) is being used to understand the way people react to advertisements and products. The marketers are ramping up efforts to understand their consumers and to feed them what will work best!