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Brain Scans in the Classroom: The Future of Neuroscience

Brain Scans in the Classroom: The Future of Neuroscience

 Three applications of neuroimaging you didn’t know of.

neuroimaging, brain, scan, law, marketing, educationNeuroimaging techniques have been widely used to study the brain as well as for clinical applications to detect and treat brain-related disorders. New developments direct neuroscience towards more practical applications of neuroimaging, that go beyond research or health care. Three examples of these applications, of which some are already in use, are brain imaging in law, education or marketing.

By studying patients with brain-related disorders, we have gathered a lot of information about the relationship between specific brain areas and behavior. One very famous example is that of Phineas Cage, an American railroad construction foreman that survived a huge accident, but was left with a completely different character as a result of injury caused by an iron rod that was driven through his head, into his frontal lobe. From a model foreman, he changed in an unreliable man, that made inappropriate remarks. Neuroimaging has increased our knowledge in a rapid pace, leading to more understanding about human behavior in general, and criminal behavior specifically. This knowledge can be, and in some cases is, used for the purpose of justice and security. This new field for neuroimaging is called ‘Neurolaw’.

Brain scans can for instance be used as lie detection device, as specific brain areas are associated with lying behavior. In addition, it can offer information about criminal responsibility, by demonstrating neuroscientific evidence that can explain criminal actions. One example is a 40-year old man that exhibited sudden pedophilia. An egg-size tumor was thought to explain this behavior. Once the tumor was removed, the pedophilic behavior disappeared. These brain alterations can be used in court to discuss a person’s criminal responsibility. Currently, neuroimages have been used as evidence in various US courts, although ethical concerns and practical limitations raise questions about the usability of these methods in the field of law.

Neuroscience has made incredible progress in understanding the development of the brain and the processes that are involved in academic skills such as reading and calculation, as well as cognitive skills such as working memory. Neuroimaging can offer advantages for education, by gaining more understanding on the process of learning and by developing interventions. For instance by using brain scans to measure the effect of interventions in children with dyslexia. Or by using neuroimages for early identification of children with learning difficulties. Another example of the practical use of neuroimaging in the classroom is the development of brain training. Using neuroimages in education might lead to new learning methods, an individual approach of education and a change in education strategies.

The application of neuroimaging for product marketing – neuromarketing – can offer great advantages for companies. It can provide marketers with information that they cannot obtain via conventional methods. Brain imaging methods are for example used to measure effectiveness of advertising, by measuring the response of the brain when showing the advertisement. Moreover, it can provide data about underlying preferences, such as the preference for coke vs. pepsi, or information about the perception of flavor. All this information can help in early product design, by developing products that are in line with consumer’s preferences. Another interesting use of neuromarketing, can be for entertainment. Showing films to subjects and measuring their responses, can be used during the editing process of a movie. Parts with high brain reactions can be left in, whereas parts that do not stimulate subjects’ brains can be left out of the movie. Other uses can be for political marketing, by studying what effects certain statements have, or what effects specific political candidates have on people’s brains.

These three domains might benefit from these new techniques. However, concerns about mental freedom and privacy are raised. Moreover, the reliability of neuroimages is under debate. For more information read How Reliable Are Neuroimages?


Photo: Flickr, opensourceway

Ansari, D., De Smedt, B. & Grabner, H. (2012). Neuroeducation- A critical overview of an emerging field Neuroethics DOI: 10.1007/s12152-011-9119-3

Ariely D, & Berns GS (2010). Neuromarketing: the hope and hype of neuroimaging in business. Nature reviews. Neuroscience, 11 (4), 284-92 PMID: 20197790

Belcher, A. & Sinnott-Armstrong, W. (2010). Neurolaw Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science DOI: 10.1002/wcs.8

neuroimaging, brain, scan, law, education, marketing

This post was written by Koko Beers:
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