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Barriers in Neuroscience?

Seth BH sethbh at aol.com
Sun Jun 25 16:14:36 EST 1995


The primary architects of barriers to understanding mind and brain and
behavior is not the insolubility of biological or psychological problems,
but rather barriers of creativity among investigators.  For example,
humans have been systematically investigating functional neuroscience for
over a century -- and here at the doorway to the 21st century, we are
still opening holes in animals heads and sticking pieces of metal in,
hoping to elucidate how the mind works.  An 1877 phsyiology text (Fosters
Physiology) elucidates the state of the art of neuroscience in the late
nineteenth century, and quite frankly, aside frm the lack of pretty
pictures, 80 percent of it could be taught in a current neuroanatomy
course.

The current focus on molecular techniques has moved such investigations
into a cul-de-sac from which we may not recover for 25-30 years. 
Molecular science is a fascinating endeavour, but it has become a
philosophy rather than a set of tools for parsing out larger issues.  When
entire departments can be devoted to investigating subsets of LTP/LTD
phenomenon and blithely speak of it as the basis of learning and memory,
whereas there have been NO studies which show that LTP is anything other
than an endogenous characteristic of cortical neuronal response
characteristics, we are following the SPT (somebody's pet theory)
modality, which guarantees that science will follow the pathways of those
who can work politics and funding agencies to their whim rather than those
who are willing to try new and untested techniques or theories.  

Until those who are willing to try the new and untested (and possibly
unproductive) theories and techniques are given at least a modicum of
oportunity to pursue their work, I fear that neuro (and other) science
will become little more than yet another unproductive and paper-laden arm
of bureaucracy.  



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