Monday, 3 December 2007

Captain Cackhanded

I wonder if Denis Campbell, author of the classic Observer MMR 'scoop', is the worst broadsheet health journalist in the country?

Looking at his latest offering he could well be:

"Most people use only three to four per cent of their total supply of brain cells."

Really Denis? Are you sure? Did you check out that surprising factoid to see if it was true or one of the hoariest urban myths of all time?

Oh, apparently not:
"Where do brain myths come from, and why are they so persistent? The origin of the 10% claim remains uncertain, despite considerable research. It is often attributed to William James, who expressed a similar idea in a 1906 speech to the American Psychological Association: "Compared to what we ought to be, we are only half awake. We are making use of only a small part of our physical and mental resources." But the 10% number has not been found in any of James' writings. Alternatively, the myth may have originated from an early misinterpretation of interneurons as undeveloped neurons, leading to the speculation that they might be a reserve pool or neural replacement later in life. Another potential source of this myth is the difficulty encountered by early neurophysiologists, notably Karl Lashley, in identifying functional defects caused by lesions of particular brain regions. Indeed, the term 'silent cortex' was once commonly used to describe regions without a clear sensory or motor function, and this could easily have been misinterpreted to mean 'unused cortex'." (from Nature Neuroscience, but pretty much anyone with even the slightest familiarity with psychology or neuroscience could have told him that it was nonsense)

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

i don't get it, pj. whats the glorious abortion angle?

pj said...

Well I post on topics other than abortion, do you?

potentilla said...

3-4% is a new one on me; the usual urban myth is "only 10%", and if you Google that version, you find lots of debunking (plus a few crapy ads). I wonder if he said 3-4% to sound clever, or to make it less easy to prove wrong?

You have more patience than I, pj; if your anonymous monomaniac troll with the poor grammar and the attachment to conspiracy theory were mine, I would moderate him out.

pj said...

I don't think Denis is smart enough to have made it up himself - I gather he cribbed it uncritically from the book he got the rest of his article from - ah, in depth investigative journalism at its finest.

As for my troll, you mean you would engage in evul atheist censorship!

Anonymous said...

"You have more patience than I, pj; if your anonymous monomaniac troll with the poor grammar and the attachment to conspiracy theory were mine, I would moderate him out."

You're just jealous i'm not paying YOU any attention.

Anonymous said...

and, a little gift for pj:

Plan for abortions at GP surgeries

Anonymous said...

and because i'm in the giving mood, pj, you get two!

Hospital staff told to make sure Muslim patients' beds face Mecca five times a day

Nope. No dhimmitude. Just, hospitality.

pj said...

"In a bid to promote cultural understanding, they are also expected to provide patients with running water so they can wash before prayer."

Just sickening isn't it?

Anonymous said...

whats you're opinion of this story pj?:

Killer in prison wins right to father a child by artificial insemination

Anonymous said...

seems like something went wrong with that last link. Here it is again.

pj said...

"A murderer serving life in jail must have the right to father a child by artificial insemination...his 49-year-old wife Lorraine...They claim she will be too old to have children when he is released."

They can claim whatever they like but she ain't having children from 'artificial insemination' (by which I presume they mean IUI) at 49. She won't even be having children with her own eggs via IVF at that age.

As to the ethics of it - well its a balance really, he'll be out in 2 years apparently, so it might be fair to allow them to have a child now while she is (cough) still fertile - on the other hand, while they do have "human right to become parents", being in prison rather limits someone's human rights, which is rather the point.

As it happens I'm in favour of giving prisoners the vote though.

Anonymous said...

"As it happens I'm in favour of giving prisoners the vote though."

Always the humanitarian.

Stuart Cameron said...

Returning, if I may, to the topic of this post, the article is quite funny - note that one of the ways to get your brain up to speed is "doing your university degree in business studies", according to Horne, who is, erm, a "business lecturer at the University of Central Lancaster [actually Lancashire]" and whose past publications include such now-standard psychology texts as "Managing Public Services: Implementing Changes". (His co-author Wooton is Horne's former business studies student).