Functional Brain Scanning

776 Words4 Pages
The holy grail of neuroscience is a complete understanding of the human brain. To be able to see a brain at work and somehow tell exactly what it is thinking would be an enormous piece of the brain puzzle. For centuries, such an idea was mere fantasy. But amidst a flurry of twentieth-century innovations in modern medicine, functional brain scanning grew quickly from long-time fantasy to a factual technique that has already showed promise in letting scientists see a brain at work and have some idea of what it is doing. Two functional brain scanning techniques, positron emission tomography and functional magnetic resonance imaging, have been seized by researchers in tens of thousands of recent brain studies. Although functional brain scanning has remained mostly in the domain of researchers, it has also seen increasing use and wide recognition outside academia, such as in the courtroom to prove a person’s inculpability and in studies challenging notions of consciousness and free will. Functional scanning has even changed the American vernacular, with people regularly speaking of a brain “lighting up,” though it does no such thing except on a scan. But the plethora of studies using functional imaging and the wide societal acceptance accorded functional scans belie a deep uncertainty over their actual scientific value. The results of functional scans are open to much wider interpretation than scientists and journalists often claim, and the entire science of brain scanning is predicated on foundations far too shaky to support the grandiose claims delivered to the public. In this essay, I will examine several cases to show both how functional brain scanning has impacted medical science and the public and also how the perception of this... ... middle of paper ... ...Don't." The New York Times 2 Jan. 2007. 31 May 2007 . Owen, Adrian M., Matthew H. Davis, Steven Laureys, Martin R. Coleman, Melanie Boly, and John D. Pickard. "Detecting Awareness in the Vegetative State." Science 313.5792 (2006): 1402. 31 May 2007 . Owen, Adrian M., Matthew H. Davis, Steven Laureys, Martin R. Coleman, Melanie Boly, and John D. Pickard. "Response to Comments on "Detecting Awareness in the Vegetative State"" Science 315.5816 (2007): 1221. 31 May 2007 . Rosen, Jeffrey. "The Brain on the Stand." The New York Times Magazine 11 Mar. 2007. 31 May 2007 .
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