ASP Subject-based Discussion: Deniz Atalayer


"Debunking Brain Myths"

Deniz Atalayer

‘Brain is for free’ said the conscionable layman over the news regarding the ease of taking the exam for university entrance in 2010. We all laughed at it as for something that simple (but missed by the educated crowd) truth to be declared as the basis for a seemingly not well-educated layman to foresee a successful (of course!) exam score, was simply a funny for all. Well, it indeed seems that, regarding what we know about the brain, we all are devoured by the urban legends and the ‘hollywoodized’ myths. It is still the talk of the town that we may pass the wall if we had used more than 10% of our brain or that the bigger the brain, the smarter you are. Even more stunning is that the highly educated and invested-in students of mine have some idea or remnants of memoirs on certain organs in the body and the unnecessary details for who they are really, such as intestines; that we have small and large kinds and the duodenum, maybe with an unintended mnemonics regarding its funky Turkish translation, or that the heart has four lobes and valves. Yet for some reason, their knowledge do not go beyond that fact that the brain is in the head. Of course the issue is not about a personal illiteracy or laziness on my students’ part but more general type of a problem regarding the high school curriculum. In addition to that, the movie industry and the popular press play a gigantic role in making people look like not only they indeed got ‘them brains’ for free but seem like they got the one that was on sale and probably with some defect on. Thus, the purpose of this short seminar is to debunk some of the major myths and most pronounced urban legends regarding that one organ that probably has much more to say about whom we are, whom we become,  what we do and why we do it, than any other organ and/or scientific theory, even theology or philosophy.