Interestingly, this odd interpretation is far from new: in fact it's part of a whole series of recurring themes in popular misinterpretations of neuroscience, first described formally in a paper from Nature Reviews Neuroscience called "fMRI in the public eye". To examine how fMRI brain imaging research was depicted in mainstream media, they conducted a systematic search for every news story about it over a 12 year period, and then conducted content analysis to identify any recurring themes.Neuro-realism
The first theme they identified was the idea that a brain imaging experiment "can make a phenomenon uncritically real, objective or effective in the eyes of the public". They described this phenomenon as "neuro-realism", and the idea is best explained through their examples, which mirror these new claims about libido perfectly.
So an article in the Washington Post takes a view on pain, and whether the subjective experience of it is enough: "patients have long reported that acupuncture helps relieve their pain, but scientists don't know why. Could it be an illusion?" They have an answer. "Now brain imaging technology has indicated that the perception of pain relief is accurate."
Another says that brain imaging "provides visual proof that acupuncture alleviates pain". The reality, of course, is much simpler: for your own personal experience of pain, which is all that matters, if you say that your pain is relieved, then your pain is relieved (and I wish good luck to any doctor who tells his patient their pain has gone, when it hasn't, just because some magical scan says it has).
- NY Time's Magazine "Year in Ideas" issue
- The neuroscience of break-ups: it's like craving cocaine! - Boing ...
- Wired examines the neuroscience of Alcoholics Anonymous
- Phineas Gage: "Neuroscience's Most Famous Patient"
- HOW WE DECIDE: mind-blowing neuroscience of decision-making Boing ...
- Neuroscience of Alice in Wonderland
- Neuroscience of gambling
- Neuroscience of junk-food cravings, researched in a Chili's ...
I write books. My latest is a YA science fiction novel called Homeland (it's the sequel to Little Brother). More books: Rapture of the Nerds (a novel, with Charlie Stross); With a Little Help (short stories); and The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow (novella and nonfic). I speak all over the place and I tweet and tumble, too.