Back to today! Some high calibre neurologists, who, as such, have had access to very special cases of people with a particular brain damage, have seen the commercial light and published popular books, accessible to all, which make the brain a fascinating organ for the masses. Some of the cases presented read like thrillers, or one of those smart medical plots of the ‘House’ series. These popularizations signed by prestigious Neurology names, have contributed to the hype and provided a fertile source of quotations. And income.
I have to say, I have a profound dislike for the Neuro Theory of Everything, from leadership to change, from marketing to consumer behaviour, from creativity and innovation to Buddhist enlightment. It’s a Technicolor Theory that provides a useful alibi to avoid true introspection of the human nature. Personally, when I say ‘I love you’, I would hate to have an MRI rainbow on a screen near me.
And I know very well that I am creating some enemies (my sincere apologies, neuro-guys) and even losing some commercial opportunities! I am a psychiatrist by training, who specialised in Psychopharmacology, wrote books about anxiety and depression, treated thousands of people, taught drug therapy, and never used a couch other than for a siesta. I know a bit about the brain. I could Neuro-sell, no problem.
For us, you and me, working in organizations, we need to apply some serious critical thinking when a Neuro-Offering is in front of us. So far, the challenge has only come from some Philosophy quarters, not the type of input that the average business executive gets. The masses love the Neuro-Stuff. And this Neuro-Stuff can be packaged and sold easily. Business organizations are a fertile ground.
Even Psychoanalysis, which my psychiatric clinical training always kept at arm’s length, had a methodology and a period of training that lasted for years. Today, anybody with a couple of Neuro-Folk-Books, a chest full of quotations, and a slide deck with pictures of the brain and copies of MRIs, can show up at your door as an expert of Neuro-Anything. People with Neuro-guts have gone as far as describing how new neuronal connections and pathways are created after some activities, converting the brain into a 3D plumbing system that can apparently be manipulated by ‘knowing that it exists’. You have to go decades back in the history of Neurology to find such simplistic explanations, now legitimized by ‘our advances in the brain sciences’.
Perhaps I have been a bit harsh. Perhaps not. Maybe I am missing something. But I will not re-name these daily encounters as “Neuro-Thoughts’.
Beware of ‘Greeks bearing gifts’. ‘Do not trust the horse, Trojans. Whatever it is, I fear the Greeks even when they bring gifts.’ (Virgil’s Aeneid, Book 2, 19 BC).
Those Technicolor horses of today are fascinating!