Seminar: Brain Myths

Topic: Does the human brain really consist of 100 billion neurons? Does vaccination cause autism? Does listening to Mozart make you smart? Will we soon be able to read your thoughts using neuroimaging? These are some examples of brain myths, i.e. strong neuroscientific beliefs by scientists and the public. Where do they come from? On what facts are they based (if any)? Why do we want to believe in the myth? What is the role of certain personalities and the media in creating and spreading brain myths?


Aims: Like no other scientific discipline, neuroscience -at least implicitly- carries the promise, to promote a true understanding of the human mind and will some day enable the cure of disabling neurological or psychiatric diseases. These big expectations fuel a public interest for all things "neuro", and has lead to a lot of wrong conceptions including a large variety of brain myths. The goal of the seminar is for the student to pick up a favourite neuroscientific idea and ask among others following questions:

1) What does the idea state exactly?

2) How did the idea originate?

3) What are the concrete facts supporting the idea? To what extent can we call it a brain myth?

4) Is there a discrepancy between the original idea / study and the public reception?

5) If yes, what is the role of certain personalities or the media?

6) Does anyone profit from idea (e.g. financially or reputation)?